There’s not a lot happening at the moment as we wait for the start of the county season. In the meantime, we’re going to bring you a couple of pieces discussing the big names in the game. Today, Sulaiman talks about one of his favourite players, AB de Villiers. And tomorrow, Will has something for you on Virat Kohli and his long-overdue return to form.
With the Indian Premier League due to commence in the near future, I thought it fit to write about one of the finest cricketers we have ever witnessed and a true IPL great. He is none other than former Proteas’ star batsman, AB De Villiers.
“Thrilling, tenacious, terrific!” These are but a few words that can be used to try, and fail, to describe this cricketing legend. Born in the small town of Bela-Bela, about 170 kilometres north-east of Johannesburg on the 17th of February 1984, De Villiers was destined to be a cricketing great. Excelling in his youth at several sports including rugby, tennis, swimming, golf and cricket, AB was always going to represent his country in some sport or other. Luckily for us, the fans, he chose cricket.
What a career it has been. Since making his debut for the Proteas on the 17th of December 2004 in a Test match against England in Gqeberha, he’s become an undisputed great of the game. Starting off as a wicketkeeper-batsman and then featuring solely as a batsman, he amassed 8765 Test runs in 114 Test matches at an outstanding average of 50.66, 9577 ODI runs in 228 ODI’s at an outrageous average of 53.50, and 1672 T20I runs in 78 T20I’s at an average of 26.12 (not to mention an excellent strike rate of 135). Throughout his international career, AB excelled in all formats scoring 47 hundreds and 109 fifties for the Proteas. Additionally, during his career in the IPL, he amassed a staggering 5162 runs in 184 matches at a strike rate of over 150.
Together with his outstanding batting, AB was an electric fielder, usually in the slips, at cover or in the mid-wicket region, and amassed an outrageous 463 catches,17 stumpings, and numerous run outs. He was once involved in 11 dismissals in a single Test match – a record that still stands today. Furthermore, few are aware that AB also bowled some occasional right-arm medium pace and took 7 wickets in 9 ODI innings at a very handy average of 28.85. He was therefore a truly talented all-round cricketer, excelling at every facet of the game.
With his fine ability and strong determination, AB achieved numerous career records. This includes him winning the ICC ODI player of the year award on 3 occasions, in 2010, 2014 and 2015. This record is only matched by legendary Indian batsman Virat Kohli. Adding to this, he holds the individual records for the fastest 50, 100 and 150 ever scored in ODI cricket. In 2015, in an ODI against the West Indies at The Wanderers he scored a 50 off just 16 deliveries and went on to score 100 in just 31 deliveries. In another ODI against the West Indies later that year, he broke the record for the fastest 150, getting to the mark in a staggering 64 deliveries – thus etching his name into the cricketing annals.
AB will also be remembered for his exceptional cricketing brain, his ability to read situations, and his reputation as an unorthodox genius with bat in hand – he earned the nickname ‘Mr 360’ for his audacious ability to utilise every inch and every possible angle to discombobulate even the best bowlers. He was an absolute maestro at the paddle sweep, the ‘helicopter shot’, the reverse scoop and the dilscoop. Indeed, AB provided the blueprint for the modern-day white ball batsman: able to play the most unconventional shots alongside orthodox strokes, too. Modern batsmen who credit AB as an inspiration include Kohli, New Zealand batsman Devon Conway, and current world number one T20I batsman Suryakumar Yadav among others.
Since making his debut, it was always clear that AB De Villiers was special – a cricketer like no other. He played a critical role in ushering in the modern era of the game, whilst still upholding its traditional values with his textbook strokeplay in the Test arena. Has there been a better batsman in the modern era? Let us know in the comments below.