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Thank you, AB


AB_de_Villiers_South_Africa_Cricket_ProteasAB said that he was tired and stood by his decision to retire. Fans, shocked at the suddenness of the move, may surely disagree with him. But even then, they would be willing to put their lives at stake to see him bat, whether in green and gold or all whites, one more time.

It’s a rare feat, a measure of distinction, for a cricketer to be as loved as he is respected.

You worshipped Tendulkar. You feted Sangakkara. You revered Lara.

But you loved, absolutely loved AB de Villiers.

In India, you nearly committed the sacrilege of raising AB to the level of Sachin. No other cricketer – and many a superstar has shone here, like Gilchrist, Lee, Kallis – has had the pleasure of hearing his name reverberating around stadiums like de Villiers.

We must not forget that nothing that de Villiers did with the bat brought a smile to his opponents on the field.

In the moment he clubbed a massive hit, freeing his arms going over extra cover or hoisting a furiously quick delivery over mid-on, de Villiers lifted a contest and removed all boredom from cricket.

And perhaps he was all too absorbed in the contest, fighting for his belated South Africa, to realize he helped resuscitate cricket a bit.


Which other cricketer since Lara or Sehwag made Test cricket this interesting? Who changed the competition from being a contest spread over 5 days to being decided on a single day?


Picture de Villiers’ 174 off 381 balls in 2008 versus England, a contest he swung South Africa’s way in a day and a half. Or his 126 off 146 versus Australia in early 2018, which single-handedly won the match for the Proteas.

Yet at the same time de Villiers, renowned for transforming an intense battleground into a playful circus with his mastery at injecting exhilaration into a game, was no stranger to playing blockathons.

He was defined as much by his propensity to explode into massive knocks, such as that 62-ball 166, as by his 246-ball 33 at Adelaide.

Combining the wizardry of his hand-eye co-ordination with the sheer gift of timing, de Villiers became the symbol of the changing nature of cricket.

In a format that’s so much about batting session after session, where the solidity of Dravid mattered and where the resolve of Laxman, Cook, Misbah and Chanderpaul stood out, AB seemed to be short of time. He exuded a nervous energy, whether he was stitching together essential partnerships with the lower order or dancing down the track in the first session of an opening day.


He was both the torpedo that could sink a titanic as well as an iceberg of coolness whose mere presence gave shudders to opponents.


De Villiers’ splendor knew no boundaries. It seemed he was stoked by the sheer joy of batting. Some of his greatest hits came away from South Africa.

Among his most admirable double-hundreds were lashings that deflated a Dhoni, Sachin & Dravid-powered India at Ahmedabad and a meteor-like explosion that crashed into Pakistan at the UAE. The former, a 217 off 333, commanded a strike rate of 65; and the latter, a 278 off 418, came at 66.

Few players have had such enormity of focus as well as a touch of class.

Yet, all these times, whether de Villiers failed to prevail despite striking a stylish 65 against the Kiwis in the 2015 World Cup or volatilely erupted into the record-books with that 149 off 44 balls, seemed wary of time.

On his watch, South Africa seemed safe.

In a lighter vein, if one thought of how equally de Villiers felt for his opponents, they would need to admit that he punished them all equally.

Few players have been as important to uplifting the sport and yet have left as empty handed, devoid of the greatest triumphs of them all, as AB de Villiers.


Yet, nearly 18,000 international runs, 47 centuries and 99 fifties later, you’ve got to ask- whose loss is it that de Villiers never clinched a world cup?


His? Or the celebrated trophies’?

And yet, even in departure, the man we lovingly called Superman – with his Olympian ability to produce magic the moment he strolled on to the field – taught us a lesson.

That someone like AB could be tired, could feel he no longer had the ‘fuel’ to go the distance, speaks much of the great man’s modesty. And yet it points us to the miracle that cricket produces with sportsmen and supermen like him.

It takes a human, in the end, to do the superhuman.

Thank you for the entertainment AB.


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