Take a wild guess. How many people follow AB de Villiers on Instagram? I’m sure you will be way off the mark. 10.6 million! Here’s more. More than 5.5 million follow him Facebook.
For a cricketer so popular, what more can I tell you? Here’s what I did. I went through a lot of fan reactions and expert comments. The recurring word was 360. They call him Mr. 360. That stems from De Villiers’ ability to play shots all round the wicket.
One of his specialities is the stroke over the wicketkeeper’s head. It’s not a Dilscoop. It’s a proper shot, executed with power and precision. A unique shot in the quiver of Abraham Benjamin de Villiers.
He’s here in the UAE for the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League. His agenda is simple: to erase the memories of three disappointing seasons for Royal Challengers Bangalore. He would even like to catapult them into the playoffs. Having been in the side since 2011, De Villiers would dearly love to steer Bangalore to their maiden title.
The former South African captain is easily one of the most destructive batsmen of his era. But De Villiers’ methods are not as brutal as Chris Gayle. The West Indian wields the bat like a bludgeon, while De Villiers uses it like a rapier. He nips and tucks, scythes and slices to the boundary with ease. He could lift the ball over the ropes at will.
De Villiers is the best player in the world by far, he shows it again and again and it was a pleasure to watch.
Sunrisers Hyderabad were at the receiving end in 2014 when De Villiers single-handedly steered a doddering Royal Challengers Bangalore to victory to arrest a string of defeats. He was at his explosive best in the 19th over, bowled by Dale Steyn, the best fast bowler in the world at that time. AB tore into him. Twenty –four runs came off that over.
One shot stood out for its sheer audacity and inventiveness. De Villiers moved across the stump and lifted a screaming delivery over the fine leg fence. Steyn stood, hands on hips, and applauded. It was the shot of a genius. A master at work. That remained etched on the minds of all those who watched. Whenever they think of De Villiers, this shot will come up the minds’ screen.
“De Villiers is the best player in the world by far, he shows it again and again and it was a pleasure to watch,” Virat Kohli, the RCB captain, said at the end of the match in Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
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Born in Pretoria in 1984, De Villiers made his Test debut for South Africa in 2004 as a wicketkeeper-batsmen. Soon his cricketing skills and creative streak took him far and wide. He turned out for Barbados Tridents, Brisbane Heat, Delhi Daredevils, Lahore Qalandars, Proteas, Rangpur Riders, and Tshwane Spartans. He also had an English county stint with Middlesex. They all fell in love with his belligerent batting and athletic fielding.
Over the years, De Villiers developed into one of South Africa’s modern-day greats. But persistent injuries forced him to call time on his international career. But that hasn’t stopped him from playing the T20 leagues of the world.
He still keeps us mesmerised with stunning stroke-making and brilliant fielding. We will see more of that in the UAE too. So keep your eyes peeled when RCB is playing. AB could well make your day.