ABD -- The man who stroked a new language in batting

‘ABD…with more talent than you can C’

This alphabetical, pun-laced tribute, is for the man who changed the language of the art of batsmanship forever, AB de Villiers.

When the great South African cricketer announced his retirement from all forms of the game, a collective sense of gloom fell all over the cricketing world. It was palpable, that Indians, no matter what IPL franchise they vouched for, felt the loss of someone who had provided them with so much pleasure over the years. Perhaps because it was clearly evident to the ‘neutral fan’ (if there is such a thing), when on song, A B de was simply a notch above everyone else in world cricket, especially
in the limited overs format. He was unquestionably the game’s most innovative batsman. The man who had broken ‘out of the box’, when it came to age-old restrictions of the crease lines, and essayed such creative shots that Picasso, Da Vinci and Van Gogh would readily have embraced him as a kindred soul.

Rarely have Indian fans revered a foreign cricketer so much in the recent past. I remember a series-deciding match at the Wankhede Stadium a couple of years back, where after he had scored a big century and obliterated India’s hopes, the
crowd gave him a standing ovation. It was nice to see the general public acknowledging a genius at work, even if he plied his trade in the enemy camp.

In giving rise to the concept of the ‘360 batsman’, he probably even kindled interest in geometry among young minds; but on a more serious note, his invention and sheer bravado set the bar when it came to bold experimentation in the game.

His assaults in the IPL on Dale Steyn, then the premier fast bowler in the world, are the stuff which will go down years later, as pivotal moments which stretched the very realms of batting possibility.

There was always electricity in the air when de Villiers was at the crease. No target seemed insurmountable. No asking rate was beyond reach. No one in the stands was safe.

It is easy to forget that he even kept wickets, and brilliantly at that, for quite a phase of his career. When out in the field he has also taken some jaw-dropping catches. One, whilst spinning around completely and pouching a high ball last year, and another this year, one-handed whilst jumping, which compelled Virat Kohli to call it ‘the Spiderman catch’, particularly come to memory.

Quite simply AB de was a colossal presence on the pitch. He leaves a giant void behind. Any sport needs those kinds of performers.

There is also a sad note on which he departs. He retires, despite not having won a trophy of consequence, such as a World Cup (in any format) or an IPL. For a player of such stature that must surely rankle. One can think of a parallel case from
another sport, in the form of the legendary, late Jonah Lomu, who whilst touching down regularly in rugby as its greatest ever player, tragically never ever won a World Cup.

AB de calls it fatigue. But perhaps there’s still time to do an acrobatic cerebral flip and reconsider for the 2019 World Cup.

Even if he doesn’t, at the very least, many will remember him for how he inspiredthem that things could truly (and literally) be turned around.

Thanks for the memories AB de…

The writer is the author of ‘Lessons from the Playground

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