Why AB de Villiers is more than just a great batter

What makes AB de Villiers the best all-format batter ever? | A look at what made AB de Villiers more than just a great batsman

Mr.360 degrees and a modern day classic batter best known for his clean striking and counter-attacking approach, here is a note on AB de Villiers, the man who would do anything for his team, always.

A…B…D, A…B…D, A…B…D………………

These were chants from Wankhade Stadium in an ODI series decider (Ind Vs SA, 2015) where South Africa is belting Indian bowlers to all parts of the grounds. The Mumbai crowd, including the famous North-Stand gang goes berserk chanting ABD despite their local hero Rohit Sharma fielding on the boundary.

Such was the love India had for this extraordinary cricketer.

As a batter there wasn’t anything that AB de Villiers couldn’t do on the cricket field. He has scored 25 runs in 244 balls in the attempt to save a Test (slowest innings of all time for min. 25 runs) as well as the fastest 100 in ODI cricket of just 31 balls. While his abilities were beyond comparison it was when and how he applied himself made him even more special.

In Test matches, he has batted at all positions from 1 to 8, and played more than 15 innings at five different positions, fulfilling whatever role he was asked to. His most prolific runs came at number five where he played the most and scored nearly 4000 runs at an average of 62.11 (best in cricket history). But what is more important that less than half of his aggregate came at that position.

What makes AB de Villiers the best all-format batter ever? | A look at what made AB de Villiers more than just a great batsman
The SA Sports Awards, Sandton International Convention Centre, Johannesburg, 30/11/2014. Siyasanga Mbambani/DoC

In the South African team post Mark Boucher’s retirement, to accommodate an extra batter in the lineup, he was also given the full time responsibility of keeping wickets in Tests along with being the main batter in the side. This was despite the fact that he was the best fielder in the side by a stretch. Keeping over time took a toll on his back and he had to opt for sabbaticals and was forced an earlier than expected retirement due to that. Yet, he never complained about it.

Even in the IPL, then 36 year-old ABD took the gloves again for a similar cause, to accommodate another batter in Devdutt Padikkal at RCB. All this inspite of wicket-keeping having had tolls on his fitness in the past. He kept for a season and a have including his last season (2021) and yet continued to flourish with the bat for RCB.

In 2016, due to fitness concerns he took a sabbatical from international cricket. At that point he was the captain of the South African cricket team. The leadership was passed to Faf du Plessis in his absence. Later, when AB returned to the national side he was asked to lead again by the board. However, de Villiers made a point that Faf was doing a wonderful job leading the side and should continue doing so (after captaining for a few games) and he shouldn’t be the captain just by the virtue of being the incumbent leader.

He retired from international cricket in 2018 due to not being able to manage his workload and injuries. It was not that he couldn’t play for South Africa, but he did not want to be “selectively available” for the team. He always was a 100% guy and didn’t want to give anything short of a cent to any side he played.

What makes AB de Villiers the best all-format batter ever? | A look at what made AB de Villiers more than just a great batsman
The great AB de Villiers excelled no matter what he was faced with.

Later when the South African team was not doing too well particularly in T20Is, the new management approached AB to come out of retirement to play the T20 WC as he was doing so well in the IPL. De Villiers initially agreed, but later went on to tell the board that it would be unfair to the cricketer who had filled his place in the South African cricket team that if he walks in at the cost of him, whosoever that may be.

Because, he thought beyond getting results for the team but also for the culture of the team and the individuals in it.

 He could walk into the side, but found it wrong to take someone’s pace who had done the hard yards and performed for South Africa.

And lastly, few days back he retired from all forms of cricket which was mainly the IPL. It is of worthy context that two new teams are being added to the IPL, and a mega auction is scheduled for the upcoming season. All players (expect at most four players retained per franchise) will be going under the hammer for the new cycle of 3-4 years.

AB de Villiers has been a vital part of the RCB (his franchise in IPL) not just as a player but as a part of the RCB brand and ethos. Virat Kohli and he together for 10 years built a partnership beyond cricket. RCB, for most fans, was merely Kohli and De Villiers.

Now with only four retentions allowed, with maximum of two overseas players, choosing those players would have been tough for the RCB franchise. These four players would form their core for the next 3-4 years. RCB couldn’t have let De Villiers go into the auction, as they would not want him anywhere else. But ABD wouldn’t certainly have been around for next three years. For the franchise that means so much to him, he wouldn’t have wanted to block a key retention slot for them as they built for the future. While all this is speculation, AB De Villiers has probably retired for the betterment of his team for years to come.

While a lot of cricketers do everything for their team, ABD is one of the unique few who has done good things for his team by not playing too. The world will always remember ABD as a great cricketer, but one can be quite certain that he would love to be remembered as a great team man.

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