Abraham Benjamin De Villiers (ABD) is a cricketer of all seasons. He is the only cricketer currently who could so perfectly mix caution with aggression, with his best bud Du Plessis and Virat Kohli being the only ones who could perhaps challenge his soon to be established total supremacy in world cricket. Anyhow, it’s all good for South Africa. The very fact that De Villers is your best bet in all formats of the game makes your jaw drop and wonder in amazement.
Perhaps his multi-talented acumen to play sports such as rugby, hockey and golf has held him in such a good stead. Thank God that he chose cricket as a career option. His career didn’t quite start with a bang, but his fielding made him a successor of the great Jonty Rhodes.
His famous run-out of Simon Katich with a direct throw lying on his stomach made him instantly popular. He secured his place in the top order with some brisk performances. With Mark Boucher losing prominence in shorter formats, De Villiers took up the chance to keep wickets effortlessly.
His world cup performance in 2007 where he scored 146 off 130 balls against West Indies battling with cramps, propelled him to be the mainstay of SA batting line up along with Kallis. Since then he has excelled in all 3 formats, with his reputation of being the best fielder, best wicketkeeper and best batsman making him the most valuable player in world cricket today.
The most enthralling feature of De Villiers repertoire is his unique characteristic to play the best counter-punch innings as well as the best rearguard role. He delivers whatever the situation demands of him. He is the only batsman who can score 16 off 60 balls and vice versa on a hard green wicket.
His innings of 33 off 220 balls in Adelaide 2012 against Australia, 11 dismissals as a wicket-keeper and a century in same Test against Pakistan in 2013, an almost match winning century against India chasing 458 to win and his latest offering of 341 runs against world’s best attack makes him the best Test player by a huge margin. The Twenty20 format has soared his popularity to new heights earning him the title of Mr.360, with his IPL numbers being outstanding: in the last two seasons, he has averaged 37.72 at a strike rate of 162.8.
There are many things that set him apart from other players in similar vein, with the foremost being his open-mindedness and humility. An incident where he personally complimented Ricky Ponting after Boxing Test day in Melbourne in 2005, proved his humble nature and love for the game.
De Villiers is known to be a firm proponent of the ”It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice” mantra. Skills and the number of runs one scores don’t matter to him as much as being good at heart does. His trait to be brutally honest was shown when he openly criticised SA fielding to be a disgrace on the eve of the recent Centurion thrashing of South Africa from the Aussies.
Another such instance was his shocking admittance when he said that he couldn’t find a place for Grame Smith in the ODI squad (whch expectedly surprised Indian cricket pundits). These qualities would keep driving ABD to soaring heights and unending hunger for runs, as they had been to Sachin Tendulkar. It’s a pleasant aspect to note that SRT had much of the same qualities. His unabashedness in declaring his desire to “be the best absolutely” makes him a step ahead of SRT, owing to his honesty and uninhibited opinion.
The retirement of Graeme Smith makes De Villiers the most likely candidate to lead SA in Tests. While that would considerably increase his workload, the magnitude of his mental stability to play such variably brilliant knocks makes him an automatic choice to be handed over the reigns of Test captaincy.
While it’s always apprehensive to bet your money on SA in world-cups, I am expecting SA ODI team to finally settle down under De Villiers as it has been a tough time for De Villiers, the captain. While SA will as usual be one of the main contenders to lift the world cup, this time they have a promising captain and a batsman more mature than ever who could make the biggest difference in crossing the extra yard to unchoke the batting and lifting the title.
While De Villiers is most likely to be the player of this decade edging Kohli and Du Plessis out, he is also one of the most humble and down to earth players in recent times.