AB de Villiers. Photograph:( Zee News Network )
Exactly two years back in May 2016, I watched an IPL T20 Cricket match between Bangalore and Gujarat Lions. South African batsman AB de Villiers (ABD) and Virat Kohli, playing for Bangalore, were decimating Lions' bowling attack. It was an assault with no mercy. ABD was even more destructive and poor Suresh Raina, captain of Gujarat Lions was absolutely clueless on how to stop this juggernaut and rein ABD in. ABD was punishing deliveries irrespective of their merit. He scored a swashbuckling century and Bangalore crushed Gujarat Lions with immaculate ease.
I have been a die-hard fan of this duo (ABD-Kohli) in T20 particularly after that match and never missed a single game of their team Bangalore ever since.
So just when I was trying to cope with the exit of Bangalore from IPL 2018, the second shocker came. ABD announced his retirement from the game. My first reaction was "why, he has plenty, plenty of cricket left him". Just a few days back we saw him decimating bowlers and taking that superman type of catch at the boundary.
Trust me that for me it is not a routine farewell piece for a cricketer. ABD was special and he has been one among my all-time favourite overseas cricketers along with Shane Warne, Viv Richards and Wasim Akram.
The reason is simple and straight. Like other three, ABD has been the only one of his league. ABD is the one who set a unique style of playing and inspired a whole generation to follow him.
His 360-degree style of batting changed the game in its own way. If ABD is on fire, then quality and class of bowling is rather a meaningless term. As a bowler, you were at the mercy of ABD as no matter what you bowl, if ABD had to dispatch it, he would.
On his day, ABD would score with jaw-dropping pace. In January 2015 during an ODI against West Indies, ABD smashed 144 runs in less than an hour. He only faced 44 deliveries and set a world record of fastest ODI hundred in just 31 balls. He led his side with passion in 2015 World Cup and led the proceedings with his bat. South Africa had a heartbreak though as they lost out to New Zealand in the semi-final.
ABD has been one of the best fielders of all-times. The way he ran Simon Katich out in 2006 with his acrobatic stop and throw has become epic to narrate for the generations to come (like Jonty Rhodes’s cruise in the air to dismiss Inzamam in 1992 World Cup).
He is leaving the game while he is still on peak and till now he was spearheading the South African middle order. In the recent Test series against India, it was ABD who played the decisive knock for his side in the first two Test matches and denied India an upper hand.
One last thing. One of the greatest ODI and T-20 batsmen of all times is leaving the game without even a single ICC title for his side. It is sad, very sad.
I remember that when South Africa crashed out of 2015 World Cup, on an Indian Facebook Cricket fans page, a tribute was posted to ABD for missing out the ICC cup yet again and fans hoped that ABD will do this in 2019 for sure. But ABD had some other ideas. He won’t be around in 2019 World Cup.
Bye bye ABD: You will surely be missed by frenzied fans like me.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)