What makes sportsmen instantly identifiable has to do with their physicality. Despite being a pocket-sized dynamo, Tendulkar drilled bowlers into submission. You could spot a Curtly Ambrose from quite some distance. When an Andrew Caddick or Joel Garner would come out to bat, the instrument of scoring would appear as if large hands had grabbed a pencil. It wasn’t the most inspiring sight to spot a burly Shaun Tait steaming in at 160 k/hr. But there are some, who are, at best, not the size of a Jupiter but watching them presents fans with astronomical highs. At 5’7 AB De Villiers doesn’t appear haunting. Nor does he seem like a demonic sight of mass destruction.
But in an age where fans are continually hoping for cricket to present more meaning than just being fodder for mass entertainment, De Villiers has kept us enthralled courtesy his subliminal talent. He doesn’t possess burly shoulders. He’s not even 5’9. Hefty muscles or ripped frame have got nothing to do with the Pretoria-born, and De Villiers certainly is no all-rounder.
But in an age of histrionics, where much of Cricket is about exuding shenanigans; few names have managed to present the art of skilful bashing of bowlers combining heroism with the bat with an elegance that has timelessness written all over it.
With nearly 18000 runs under his belt, 46 hundreds and nearly a 100 fifties, De Villiers doesn’t need to represent a proof of his capability.
If there’s something he’d quite like to do- where his die-hard fans stand- a bandwagon that romantically identifies caped superheroes in a sport that often stands in need of brilliant rescue acts- then it would be to continue playing the game simply.
For someone who’s walked the long mile, arriving in a unit that was cushioned by the experience of Kallis and Smith and stuck it out during a phase of important transition, most noticeably amplified by the anointment of Faf as captain. Although often reeling in the absence of Styen, De Villiers’ presence holds paramount importance as a younger generation comes to terms in assuming the responsibility of representing one of cricket’s most herculean forces.
The world’s expectation of South Africa is by no means dainty.
Holding the rare distinction of being a genuinely well-balanced unit; as dependant on the skill of its seamers as on the capability of its batsmen, De Villiers lends a subliminal presence to a side that has often paraded ordinary albeit heartbreaking showings during peak tournaments.
You instantly understand the value AB brings to South Africa when you claw back past to the scene of their only triumph against India in a harrowingly one-sided ODI series. Decked in pink and sporting the crystal white shades, De Villiers, a figure of poise was continually talking to Ngidi and Rabada. Though his contribution with the bat wasn’t a mighty one, much before the start of the ODI, media, it seemed, were buoyed by the thrill of seeing South Africa’s much-loved son return to the side of which he’s more than a star. A superstar and a meteor from outer space. A thrill like no other, a fire like none the world’s seen.
But perhaps after blazing many a trail in the gentleman’s game, though not explicitly in the gentlest of manners, horsewhipping bowlers with cunning accuracy and obduracy, De Villiers might want to reorient his game. While there’s no doubt about his talent, it could be said; it would help AB’s craft in resorting to a new role in a side that boasts of several batting talents- de Kock, Amla, Faf, Morris, newbies like Zondo and future ‘all format’ leader Markram.
Would it not help if De Villiers bats around the side, instead of the side batting around De Villiers?
You reckon AB did a world of good to himself by absolving himself of multiple captaincy roles. After battling multiple injuries and some moments of solace and tranquillity- though, rarities in this age of non-stop incessant competitive action- De Villiers, it appears, would help himself a great deal by holding onto the non-striker’s end at times too.
The distinct sound of crackle from his bat, regardless of the insatiable delight it fetches us mortal fans, (who’d always been more biased toward batsmen than bowlers) would want to see De Villiers abstain from undertaking mind-boggling risks that expose his stumps to their chasers and his body to the morbid dangers of injury. How about a De Villiers who bats along a Zondo and Faf, de Kock and Morris instead of taking those familiar giant leaps being the mainstay for half a decade?
De Villiers presents relatively simple math. The more he stays on, the more number-crunching for scorekeepers. But for that to continue, you’d want De Villiers to stick around for 20 overs on an ideal day; which breaks down to adopting a safer stroke-play. Should South Africa win the 2019 World Cup, it is essential for De Villiers to anchor their innings. Never mind the bone-crushing threat his dynamic blade offers, you’d want a restrained Abraham De Villiers, one who can make the world re-think about the tag they’ve notoriously clung to South Africa.