Dubai: The debate for the best batsman’s tag in recent times have revolved around Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and Joe Root — with Kane Williamson often forcing his name in the ring. There has been, however, no dispute about who cricket’s ‘Mr 360 degrees’ is, as there is only one AB De Villiers.
As the talismanic figure of South African cricket shocked the cricketing fraternity by announcing his retirement from all forms of international cricket on Wednesday, it will not be a cliche to say that there won’t possibly be anyone quite like him.
The country that ‘AB’ hails from has a legacy of formidable batsmen, but the 34-year-old was unique in his approach to batsmanship — using his supreme athleticism and gifted sense of timing to defy the coaching mannual and cart the bowlers to all angles of the Wagon Wheel.
“This is a tough decision, I have thought long and hard about it and I’d like to retire while still playing decent cricket. After the fantastic [Test] series wins against India and Australia, now feels like the right time to step aside,” AB said at a cryptic personal video message on his Twitter account from Pretoria — where he had taken his first steps with the Proteas squad as a ‘nervous youngster.’
“It would not be right for me to pick and choose where, when and in what format I play for the Proteas. For me, in the green and gold, it must be everything or nothing,” he added.
The script sounded a well rehearsed one, as at one stroke the former South African captain clarified that he would not be available for even the One-dayers and T20 format — as many would have surmised that he could go the M.S. Dhoni way when AB took a long sabbatical from Tests back in 2016. Interestingly enough, the past season had seen him committing to playing in all three formats again as he played a pivotal role in guiding the hosts to series wins at home against India and Australia.
It was barely a week back that De Villiers pulled off that gravity-defying catch for his IPL team Royal Challengers Bangalore, a franchise whose captain Virat Kohli and him share a mutual admiration society. Given his obvious demand in the world of franchise cricket, will it be henceforth league cricket for AB? The man, himself, left it open-ended: “It’s not about earning more somewhere else, it’s about running out of gas and feeling that it is the right time to move on,” he said. “Everything comes to an end. To the cricket fans around South Africa and the world, thank you for your kindness and generosity, and today, for your understanding.
“I have no plans to play overseas, in fact, I hope I can continue to be available for the Titans in domestic cricket. I will continue to be the biggest supporter of [captain] Faf du Plessis and the Proteas,” he said. “After 114 Test matches, 228 ODIs and 78 T20s, it is time for others to take over. I’ve had my turn and to be honest I’m tired.”
A humble and down-to-earth invidual, AB’s popularity can be gauged from the shock and awe his decision triggered yesterday. Compatriot Morne Morkel, who himself bid adieu to the international scene after the stormy series against Australia, said: “It’s a big shock, especially with the World Cup around the corner. But he’s played for 14 years and played all formats and after a while all the pressure, all the miles get to you.”
The 2019 ICC World Cup in England could have been the right moment for a curtain call, as winning the 50-overs showpiece was something which he often saw as an unfinished business. However, he told the ICC website last month: “My ultimate dream is not to win a World Cup. I’ve changed my mindset. I feel it will be nice to win it, it’ll be a bonus, but if I don’t, it’s not going to define my career.”
“AB is one of the all-time greats of South African cricket who has thrilled spectators around the world with his sheer brilliance, coupled to his ability to innovate and take modern day batting in all three formats but particularly in the white ball ones to new levels,” Cricket South Africa president Chris Nenzani said.
— With inputs from agencies
Mts Inns NO Runs HS Avg S/R 100s 50s Cts St
Tests 114 191 18 8765 278* 50.66 54.51 22 46 222 5
ODIs 228 218 39 9577 176 53.50 101.09 25 53 176 5
T20Is 78 75 11 1672 79* 26.12 135.16 0 10 65 7
Began his career as a wicket-keeper has kept in 24 Tests and has 94 dismissals to his credit (89caught/5stumpings)
Test debut vs England at Port Elizabeh in 2004; ODI debut also vs Eng in early 2005. First T20I was against Australia in early 2006.
Was part of Delhi Daredevils for the first three years of IPL and has since been a part of RCB. Has scored 3 IPL hundreds, 2 for RCB and one for DD.
His highest IPL score is 133* for RCb vs MI at Wankhede in 2015.
Has captained South Africa in 3 Tests and won 2 of them. However was more the ODI captain of SA where he won 49 of the 87 games apart from 15 T20I games winning seven.
On January, 2015, he scored the fastest century by any player in ODI cricket in just 31 balls, the entire innings of 149 lasted just 44 balls.
During the above innings, he made the quickest ODI 50 in 16 balls.
Has batted in positions from 1-8 in Tests and from 1-6 in One-dayers.
Has scored 1000 runs in a year twice in Tests (2005 & 2008)and three times in ODIs (2007, 2013, 2015)
Was the third highest run-getter (484 runs) in the 2015 World Cup.
About Abraham Benjamin de Villiers
Born: February 17, 1984, Pretoria (Age 34 years)
Teams: South Africa, Barbados Tridents, Delhi Daredevils, Northerns, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Titans
Playing role: Wicketkeeper batsman
Batting style: Right-hand bat
Bowling style: Right-arm medium
Fielding position: Wicketkeeper