Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
Jan 17, 2018, 11.57 AM
It was Philander who ripped through Indian batting line up at Cape Town. Debutant Ngidi did a Philander’s act at Centurion and tore apart Indian line up. No doubt both of them won the Test for their side.
But there is one man who rather silently did the trick for his team in both Test matches; it was South African veteran AB de Villiers (let’s call him ABD). If you critically look at both Test matches, interestingly, it was ABD who took control of the things right at the moment when they could have gone totally haywire for his side. His knocks at critical junctures have been the biggest success factor for South Africa. I am not undermining what Philander and Ngidi did but they excelled in favourable conditions and on the 4th innings of the Test, whereas, ABD performed when the opposition started playing really well.
Those who do something against the run of a play are a truly special bloke and ABD did exactly that. Sports is all about momentum. In Cricket (or say any sports per se), if the opposition is gaining momentum and doesn’t get controlled in time, then they would simply run away with the game.
Both in Cape Town and Centurion, when India was on the brink of gaining devastating momentum, it was ABD who stood against it and tamed the adverse situation.
At Cape Town, in the first innings, South Africa was reeling against the pace bowling of Bhuvi and the score line was 12 for 3. At this moment, an early fourth wicket would have led to a total downfall, as was the case in 2006 when South Africa was bowled out by India for 84 at Johannesburg. But ABD with his counter-attack changed the narrative. Not only he scored a half-century, he nullified the Indian momentum.
ABD continued his heroism at Centurion. When South Africa was 2 down for 3 runs in second innings against the spirited Bumrah, de Villiers came for the rescue. Not only he put Indian bowlers on the back foot, he ensured that South Africa scored enough runs on a difficult track.
So, if India crumbled in both Tests after losing 2/3 early wickets and South Africa didn’t, then it was de Villiers who brought that difference.
This is the sign of a true champion. You should have the ability to rise to the occasion. Being the senior most member of the team, ABD is bearing the responsibility.
The greatest trait of ABD is the way he molds his mindset as per the situation. When in the flow, he decimates bowlers in ODI and T-20. He can also score at the strike rate of 180 plus each time he goes out with his willow like Rohit Sharma. But then in this Test, unlike Rohit Sharma, he bats with controlled aggression and was in the right mindset
ABD is much away from stardom. Once someone defined the greatest quality of Tendulkar; after 20 plus years in international cricket, Tendulkar would run between the wickets like a debutant runs to complete his first Test century. In 1987, after declaring his retirement and playing in the last Test innings, Gavaskar played the innings of his life at Bangalore on a hyper turning track, in his bid to save Test for his side. ABD is in this league only – no complacency and full dedication.
I somehow find him like Kumar Sangakara of Sri Lanka – delivering value for his side when it is needed the most. On the other hand, we have few Test old Hardik Pandya. After a good knock at Cape Town, he showed a laidback attitude, and the way he threw his wicket at Centurion in the first innings is bizarre and deplorable.
You become a superstar by virtue of your performance not by becoming a swagger on what have you done in the past, and ABD is the true epitome of this. ABD with his application and determination took the series away from Indians in a very subtle manner.
ABD – South Africa is lucky to have someone like you. Every time you come on the crease, we can read from your body language that how far away you are from the torpor of complacency. We can see that eagerness in your eyes to deliver something special for your side. Hats off buddy.
And lastly, apart from fixing their batting woes, will Shastri and Kohli plan something to counter ABD for the last Test to salvage some pride?
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)