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Where should AB de Villiers bat?

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AB de Villiers_South Africa_cricketAfter last year’s ICC World Twenty20, especially the semi-final, former South African players such as Kepler Wessels and Daryll Cullinan felt AB de Villiers was not being used in a manner that could most benefit South Africa. Since he is the best, he would have the opportunity to face the most balls when opening the batting.

According to T20 skipper Faf du Plessis, opening the batting in T20 cricket is now de Villiers’ new role. Changing de Villiers into an opening batsman is the new way to deploy him to maximum effect. However, that might not always be the case as he might also be used as the third batsman. Although he is ranked higher in the T20 batting rankings, du Plessis has moved down the batting lineup in order to stabilize the innings, while de Villiers opens the batting with Quinton de Kock or replaces du Plessis at three.

Just the other day, the first T20 against Bangladesh was only de Villiers’ second time opening the innings in his T20 international career. Some would argue that converting de Villiers into an opening batsman right now is acting a bit late. Maybe they needed to work towards this right after the previous T20 tournament. Nevertheless, time is of the essence and South Africa is targeting the World T20 title.

At least South Africa aren’t just pushing any old cricketer to open the batting. De Villiers has always wanted to bat in the top three, as he said during the recent IPL. In addition, while playing for the Royal Challengers Bangalore and batting in the top three, he finished as the team’s highest run-scorer and fourth highest in the IPL overall.

De Villiers may not dominate T20 rankings as he does the other formats, but maybe he is on his way there in his new batting role. Come to think of it, de Villiers is ranked 46th, and that’s not where a cricketer like de Villiers should be. In this position, he can probably reach his maiden T20 international century. All those times he never reached the milestone could have been because there are not enough overs in T20 cricket when you’re batting lower down the order.

 

De Villiers possesses an aggressive edge when he plays cricket, as we usually see in ODIs. As such, his aggressive nature and aggressive shots will definitely come in handy when he bats higher up the order, as he can leave a good score for the middle order batsmen to build on. Only a few players can execute aggressive and defensive shots simultaneously. This is the correct combination for de Villiers to score runs and not lose his wicket.

With the scoring in T20 matches being ridiculously high, de Villiers can match the competition with all those shots only he can play. We’ve all seen what Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum do at the top of the order. South Africa just needs de Villiers to match that or beat it.

When it comes to where he bats, de Villiers is very flexible, considering he has batted from one to eight. He is similar to McCullum, who has been used all over the New Zealand batting order. Maybe as time goes by de Villiers will own the T20 stage like Gayle and McCullum.

There are mixed emotions with regards to where de Villiers bats. Although he has been great when batting at number 3, and once when opening the batting, his success lies at number 4. De Villiers has scored more runs batting in this position and achieved his highest score of 79 not out. He can sink the bowling team deeper into trouble or save the innings for his side if the top order batsmen lost their wickets early. Just by walking to the crease he leaves the bowling side dizzy.

It’s the dawn of a new era. The experiment is starting to take shape. In the second T20 against Bangladesh, de Villiers and de Kock had half the innings taken care of when they made a 95-run opening stand before losing their wickets.

As de Villiers is a right-hand batsman and de Kock a left-hand batsmen, on a slow wicket like the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, strike rotation could frustrate the opposition. Together they are quick between the wickets so those singles will be easier to come by. Therefore the quickness of T20s and these two at the wicket, South Africa is on the right track.

Despite everything, there is not enough time for South Africa to establish de Villiers in his role as an opening batsman; he only has 10 matches to perfect his skills at the top of the order before the ICC World Twenty20 in March next year. There’s no man better equipped for this role than de Villiers.

However, some have argued that even Rilee Rossouw should be moved up the order. Perhaps swap him and JP Duminy. Then again, what about the return of Hashim Amla? South Africa now have three opening batsmen and need to wrap their heads around that. Fixing one issue can sometimes lead to another.

Hopefully, it will be enough time for du Plessis to assemble his troops into a tournament winning team.

 



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Thobeka ‘Beks’ Ngema. A cricket and football blogger who fell in love with both sports but event...

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