Dubai: There is no surprise element, really, like the last time when AB de Villiers announced his exit from international cricket in 2018 in a video message. The decision of the original ‘Mr 360 degrees’ to retire from all forms of cricket on his social media handle - to that extent - can be seen as a formal parting of his ties as a player with his IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore.
In the dynamics of the result-driven franchise cricket world, ‘AB’, one of the modern batting greats, had been able to hold his own with Bangalore for a period of a decade - his personal relationship with skipper Virat Kohli also helping to sustain the chemistry. There had been few other overseas players who could retain their toehold with a single franchise like Sri Lankan Lasith Malinga, West Indian Kieron Pollard (both with Mumbai Indians) or Dwyane Bravo (Chennai Super Kings).
Now 37, De Villiers has played in 184 IPL matches, of which the first three seasons for Delhi Capitals (formerly Delhi Daredevils) followed by a decade with Bangalore - with their batting line-up being once the other franchises’ envy with him, Kohli and Chris Gayle. He scored 5162 runs at an average of 39.70 and strike rate of 151.68, including three centuries and 40 half-centuries while being a member of the RCB side which entered IPL play-offs five times.
The anomaly, of course, was that the IPL crown had remained an elusive one for Bangalore. The signals are that even the mighty AB, who had an indifferent run in IPL 2021, was not on the list of retainees for the mega auction and the South African has seen it coming. One has to wait and watch to see if any other role awaits the finest ambassador of cricket - either in their dugout or for Cricket South Africa - but the sport will be poorer not to see him come out to bat or stand with the wicketkeeper’s gloves on again.
A master batsman and team person, AB has certainly left his legacy in the art of batsmanship in white ball cricket. If a young Nicholas Pooran or Ishan Kishan try to disturb a bowler’s line with a switch-hit or a pick-up shot in a bif to break the shackles of the fielders - it’s not difficult to see where the inspiration has come from.
MORE ON AB DE VILLIERS
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- IPL in UAE: For an old man like me, I need to stay fresh, says AB de Villiers
- IPL 2021: AB de Villiers lands in UAE, to join RCB camp post quarantine
In a series of tweets, de Villiers said, “It has been an incredible journey, but I have decided to retire from all cricket. Ever since the backyard matches with my older brothers, I have played the game with pure enjoyment and unbridled enthusiasm. Now, at the age of 37, that flame no longer burns so brightly.”
“That’s the reality I must accept - and, even if it may seem sudden, that is why I am making this announcement today. I’ve had my time. Cricket has been exceptionally kind to me. Whether playing for the Titans, or the Proteas, or RCB, or around the world, the game has given me unimagined experiences and opportunities, and I will always be grateful.”
The burning desire to shine on the biggest stage of the sport - even after signing off from international arena - has often given the idea that AB could be a fickle-minded person. There were talks of coming out of retirement ahead of the 2019 ICC World Cup and then again the 2020 World T20, which was eventually postponed due to the raging Covid-19 pandemic. The 2020 edition of IPL in the UAE saw him in fine fettle for someone who had been out of international cricket for a while - there were no doubts that his genes and background as an allround sportsperson who played hockey and rugby must have also helped.
When the next World T20 eventually came around this year, time had ran out for AB for one last hurrah. But then, he has done his bit in 114 Tests, 228 ODIs and 78 T20Is for the Proteas.
Thanks AB for the magic...