Indian Premier League (IPL) fans, who got to watch AB De Villiers’s last few matches, have been very fortunate. They were unaware that they were watching one of the finest batsmen in the game possibly for the last time; his well-timed sixes that flew into them and the spider-man catch will remain etched in their minds forever.
De Villiers’ nerves must surely be made of steel, or else how could he, after hitting those sixes so effortlessly from anywhere on the batting crease, decide that he has played enough and it is time to retire from all forms of the game. His video statement, in which he said “it was time for the next generation to take over” and give up his slot speaks volumes of the sportsmanship in him.
His form and aura has been such that any T20 league around the world would be ready to pay him huge money for a few more years. It clearly showed that for De Villiers, money did not matter more than the joy of playing cricket.
At a time when many top cricketers are struggling to make a call on their career due to the lure of millions of dollars, De Villiers at 34, has set an example for those who still hope to be bought despite being past their prime.
Every time I have met him, De Villiers gave the feeling of having that intense childlike enthusiasm. He carries that zest into every match, and that is why has emerged match-winner in so many occasions.
Once in Dubai during a dinner at the Shyam Bhatia’s cricket museum, he revealed his keenness to know the history of the game and statistics related to some of the great batsmen around the world. He was literally on his knees, reading every detail displayed on the walls of the museum.
It is this passion for the game that made De Villiers read any bowler’s plan against him so clearly. His knowledge about the game was immense, and so was his fondness for other sports. As a youngster, he had excelled in golf, tennis and rugby.
De Villiers will be revered not only as one of the greatest cricketer but also one of the finest sportsmen South Africa has produced. He is often addressed as ‘ABD,’ but for anyone who wishes to learn the ABCD of sportsmanship, he is the right person.
Despite so much of talent and fame, he is also humble and courteous. His pyrotechnics with the bat got him the nickname Mr 360 degrees. From now on, he should be called ‘Mr 365’ since he is someone who is worthy of being idolised by youngsters 365 days of the year. The legacy De Villiers leaves behind will be cherished forever.