AB de Villiers or better known as ‘Mr. 360 degrees’ from South Africa who was an international cricketing superhero called it quits to his international cricketing career last week. He said that he ‘has run out of gas’ and that it is the right time for him to ‘hang up his boots’ and retire from the game. Here is a tribute to one of the greatest batsman of all time and a modern day legend. He has had a stellar 14-year cricketing career ending his career with an average of over 50 in both test and ODI cricket. The 34-year-old leaves a legacy and a mark that will be hard to fulfill for the incumbent players of the South African team.
Not always can one unearth a sportsman who is so versatile and good enough to represent the nation in multiple sports. That is AB de Villiers for you. We all know him as a cricketer; an attacking batsman who can play all around the wicket and who once captained the South African cricket team. Only a few would know that AB was shortlisted for multiple national level teams including the junior national hockey squad, and the junior national football squad. He was also captain of South Africa junior rugby team, holds six South Africa schools swimming records, holds the record for the fasted 100 meters run in junior Athletics in South Africa, a member of the junior South African Davis Cup tennis team, and the national under 19 badminton champion. He was not only a good sportsman but once also received a national medal from Nelson Mandela for a science project.
De Villiers finished his career with 8765 runs in 114 test matches at an average of 50.66 and with 9577 runs in ODI cricket at an average of 53.50. In T20 internationals he has scored 1672 runs for a total of 20014 runs in the international cricket arena. A naturally gifted stroke-maker, de Villiers made his first-class debut for the Northern against a Western Province side in 2003. He made an immediate mark in first-class cricket scoring 50’s in both innings. He made his test debut in 2004 against England at Port Elizabeth, opening the innings with Graeme Smith as a 20-year-old batsman. His value as a batsman grew with each outing and thus was moved to the pivotal number 4 spot to soon become a crucial member of the South African batting unit. So, versatile was AB that he was able to bowl right arm medium pacers and keep wickets with equal efficiency. In fact, he was often the understudy for Mark Boucher and then the first choice wicketkeeper before Quinton de Kock burst into the circuit. The longevity of the player was evident by the fact that he didn’t miss a test match for 98 consecutive games for the country.
AB’s love for the shorter formats of the game was what made him an international superstar. The ability to maintain attacking stroke play for a sustained period of time was a hallmark of his game. His ability to take a cricket match away from an opposition in a matter of 5 to 10 overs is what made him the most dangerous batsman in the world. His ability to use the depth and width of the crease moving around the wicket to open up the leg side and offside was a sight to behold. De Villiers holds the record for the fastest 50, 100 and 150 in ODI cricket. He scored 50 off 16 and 100 off 31 balls against the West Indies in Johannesburg before scoring 150 off 64 balls at the SCG in 2015. Many thought that he would also be the fastest to score a double century in ODI cricket and had the potential even to score the first triple century in ODI cricket. AB has a batting strike rate of 100 plus in ODI cricket that made him a regular fixture in T20 leagues worldwide. He was able to convert the South African side into an attacking unit captaining the side in 103 ODI matches since taking over from Smith in 2012. His successor Faf du Plessis is continuing the same demeanor and aura created by the legend.
Another hallmark of AB’s game is his fielding and his passion for staying fit. Often you would see AB haring down the boundary line often plucking off a scintillating catch or an acrobatic bit of fielding to restrict the batsman. When batting he is always seen haring down the wickets trying to convert ones into twos and twos into threes. The world is sure to miss AB’s dreamlike batting and charismatic fielding. The fact that AB is loved more in India and all over the world sometimes even more than when in South Africa is proof of how popular the player is.
The only missing piece in AB’s puzzle is the lack of any silverware at the world stage. Their campaign in 2015 down in Australia and New Zealand was the closest they got to win the trophy. They had probably the best team on paper but flopped at the semi-final stage losing to eventual runners-up New Zealand. Many thought that AB would continue till the 2019 world cup but that was not to be. Injuries kept him out of the game for the most part of 2017 and this was one of the main reasons for him to hasten this decision to quit. The unselfish player highlighted that he should not be required to pick and choose which game to play and thus be blocking the road for another young talented player. This shows the gentleman in the body of this warrior.
Upon his retirement, the legend from South Africa has vowed to continue to play in the South African domestic circuit plus play in T20 league tournaments around the globe. Whether he decides to play English county cricket or any other form of cricket in another country is something to be seen.
Happy retirement AB. We are gonna miss you!!