The term ‘genius’ get bandied about loosely in sport, but when it comes to AB de Villiers, as a teammate said, the label is richly deserved. With an unbelievable 149 off 44 balls against West Indies in early 2015, where the fifty came from an record 16 balls and the hundred from a record 31 balls, de Villiers, the South African captain, has staked his claim to a place among the greats.
De Villiers is the classic modern-day batsmans. When out in the whites, his cover drives are a sight to behold, a throwback to the days of Mark Waugh when right-handed batsmen could hold a good debate with their left-handed counterparts on the subject of elegance. Cut to the shorter formats of the game, and AB is equally prized as an innovator, a creator of shots much like Tillekaratne Dilshan and others of the Twenty20 factory.
But more than all of that, AB is an almost complete sportsperson. He is only a shade below compatriot Jonty Rhodes when it comes to plucking balls out of thin air, he keeps wickets when his team wants him to or the fancy catches him, he is a super sprinter between the wickets and, of course, has batted at pretty much every position possible for a top-order batsman.
Off the cricket field, AB plays a decent game of rugby, tennis and golf, if his mates are to be believed. His potential had been recognised early enough, and AB made his Test debut soon after South Africa’s 2003 World Cup debacle when the selectors were trying to put together a new and young team under Graeme Smith. But it wasn’t smooth sailing for the first part, maybe because of AB’s famously cavalier attitude towards life. Till the turning point in 2008, when he scored the first Test double century by a South African against India – 217 not out in Ahmedabad.
His averages are now north of 50 in every format of the game; telling you just how far his prodigious skill has now come.
It can be confidently said, that de Villiers follows the example of Sachin Tendulkar, and Kumar Sangakkara- adjusting to all the three formats of the game with relative ease.