Abraham Benjamin de Villiers was born in Warmbad, South Africa. It is that kind of town in South Africa where everyone knows everyone. He did his schooling from Pretoria along with Faf du Plessis. AB was brought up in a sports-loving family. He was introduced to different sports by his elder brother. AB started playing cricket with his elder brother and his friends. He mostly used to do fielding and was hardly given chance to bat in his own backyard. As a child, AB used to give hard time to the players (brother’s friends who played club cricket) who were ten to twelve years elder than him. So like many players, AB de Villiers also started playing cricket in the backyard of his house.

A few years ago, I read in one of the news articles “before playing international cricket, AB de Villiers was shortlisted for national hockey and football team, AB was captain of South Africa junior rugby team, de Villiers is holder of national school swimming records, de Villiers has the fastest 100 meters time among junior sprinters, de Villiers was part of national level tennis team and de Villiers was badminton champion.” It amazed me a lot but I believed it. The fact is AB played these sports but only at school level. He was good at most of these sports and enjoyed playing them in school or high school. I feel we are fortunate or blessed that AB chose cricket over other sports.

We are fortunate that AB de Villiers chose cricket otherwise we wouldn’t have witnessed great quality of unorthodox cricket. AB de Villiers has his own way of playing the game. While batting, he creates a virtual box around the crease and he bats in that box. The virtual box helps him shuffle from front foot to back foot easily and he can play the shots with ease. And while fielding, he attacks the ball with great conviction and tries to take all the catches in his range. The parameter of difficulty while taking catches doesn’t apply on him. If the ball is in his range then he will jump to his limit to grab that ball. He started his career as a wicket-keeper batsman but later he became full time batsman and an excellent fielder. The ability to hit the ball in any corner of the ground makes AB de Villiers Mr. 360 and his athleticism on the field makes him Superman.

AB de Villiers and a 90s Kid

My first impression of AB de Villiers was as a hard-hitting batsman who can keep wickets for South Africa. He made his debut in 2004 and at that time I was thirteen year old boy who used to play (gully) cricket day in and day out. It wasn’t love at first sight. When AB made his international debut, my South African favourites were Gibbs, Kallis, Smith and Pollock. AB de Villiers took some time to cement his place in the South African team. He took some time to come out of the shadow of the greats and become the backbone of South African team. Similarly, I took some time to recognise his ability. I recognised his ability when he hit his maiden ODI hundered against West Indies in 2007 world cup.

In 2007 world cup, India was knocked out of the world cup in group stages. Thus, I was neutral in that world cup. When AB de Villiers hit that hundered against West Indies in a super 8 match, all of the sudden, South Africa became my favourite to win that world cup. While he was batting in that match, I realised that he was taking a trigger movement. And that trigger movement was helping him to get ready for the length. After that innings, he started gaining maturity as a player and I started gaining maturity in life. In 2008, AB became first South African to hit double hundered against India. I didn’t like that knock at all. Whenever I was checking the score, he was there in the middle, I was constantly praying for his wicket. That knock against India took him on the path of greatness.

Great Knocks by AB de Villiers

33 against Australia, Adelaide, 2012.

Every team go on a Australian tour with a dream of winning the series. And most of the times, this dream remains a dream. Here, South Africa had a chance of winning the series down under. Here, they had to defend this test match and had lost wickets in quick succession. In that situation, AB de Villiers decided to hold one end and give support to Faf du Plessis. He spent 246 minutes in the middle, played 220 deliveries, scored only 33 runs and saved the match for South Africa. I saw him for the first time as a thirteen year old boy but my perception about him changed when I turned twenty one. By 2012, he had become a world class player who can destroy any bowling attack in the world. I saw that match on the last day and AB’s innings (wide) opened my sleepy eyes. I was surprised to see his persistence and his control on his batting. He earned my respect that day. AB de Villiers displayed that kind of persistence in test match cricket quite a few times after that innings but that innings will always be considered as one of AB’s great innings.

149 (44) against West Indies, Johannesburg, 2015.

It was a lazy Sunday evening for me. I grabbed the remote control and jumped on the sofa. I switched on the T.V. to check if there is any cricket match going on in any part of the world. South Africa was playing in pink against West Indies and AB de Villiers just walked in the middle as South Africa lost its first wicket. South Africa was in a good position and AB was middling the ball straight away. What happened next is something I will never forget. AB didn’t build that innings, he simply launched it. First, AB hit the fastest fifty then started playing with the bowlers. He was hitting lap shots for six, he was hitting sweep off fast bowlers for six, he was hitting down the ground and over the cover region for the six. He was simply unstoppable on that day. “Take a bow!” I said when he completed his century in just 31 deliveries. I stood up and bowed down in front of the great AB de Villiers. He converted my lazy Sunday into an energetic one. AB brought me on to my feet and with every shot, I was calculating the odds.

162 (66) against West Indies, Sydney, 2015.

After that innings of fastest hundered, I started considering AB as my Guru, I wanted to be his disciple. In that innings, AB de Villiers missed the record of fastest 150 by 1 run. The destiny had saved the knock fastest 150 by AB de Villiers for the special event and that special event was the world cup. Again, West Indian bowlers were at the receiving end. In the period of two months, West Indian bowlers faced the tormentor version of AB de Villiers twice. This time AB de Villiers played 64 deliveries to hit the fastest 150. In that innings, he smashed 8 sixes and 17 fours. When AB was smashing West Indian bowlers, I was working. I turned the mobile data on during lunch break and got the news that AB de Villiers has hit fastest 150 in ODIs. I went home in the evening and the first thing I did was, watched the Highlights of that match.

AB de Villiers invented cricket on some other planet, then he came on earth to evolve the game.

The shots which AB de Villiers play are not even imagined by ordinary players. Reverse pedal, lap shot, sweep shot and all other types of shots on one knee off fast bowlers are not played on this planet. I have played cricket with almost all types of balls but I haven’t found that much amount of time to get on one knee and play shots like AB de Villiers off fast bowlers in any type of ball. I have tried to play shots like him but I have only injured myself. To learn those shots, I am ready to be his disciple. I don’t believe in any spiritual guru, if anyone ask me “who is your guru?” I say AB de Villiers. As a disciple, I would like to learn different techniques of the game and I want to adopt his personality.

World Cup cannot define me as a player or as a person

AB de Villiers

When AB de Villiers broke down after loosing the semi-final of 2015 world cup, my heart went out to him. He deserved that cup more than any other player. In 2018, when AB announced his retirement, I got one of the biggest shocks of my life. I didn’t expect that he will announce his retirement just a year before the world cup. At that time, he was in that kind of form that if he had played for five more years, no one would have asked him to retire. I expressed my amazement on social media but in the end, I had to accep the fact that he has retired.

I look up to AB de Villiers not only as a great player but as a great human being as well. He is very humble and modest person despite creating so many records on the cricket field. Not only me, but the whole nation also loves AB de Villiers. People treat him as a son of this country and AB also considers India as his second home. Thus he is number one in my list.

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