“At the age of 37, that flame no longer burns so brightly” said AB de Villiers, as he announced his retirement from all forms of cricket this week.
The reverberating chants of ‘ABD! ABD!’ at the Chinnaswamy when he came to bat for Royal Challengers Bangalore or at the Wankhede when South Africa were playing India in a must win match, define the legacy that de Villiers has established. How many times do you see an away captain playing against India in India get the kind of reception that de Villiers received.
In this writer’s mind, he is the greatest cricketer this generation has seen. Unbelievably talented, unimaginably versatile. A legacy unparalleled, unmatched numbers and most important of all an ultimate team man. There is nothing on the field of cricket that de Villiers could not do.
ALSO READ: FIVE DEFINING AB DE VILLIERS INNINGS
He once played 220 balls against Australia to help draw a Test. He once scored 162 off 66 balls in a World Cup game. On a dry Delhi pitch, with South Africa needing to draw to avoid defeat and with R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja getting the ball to turn, de Villiers batted 297 delivers – almost 50 overs! – to make 43 stubborn runs.
When RCB were struggling at 31/5 at the end of the Powerplay when chasing 158 in Qualifier 1, he bailed them out with 79 thus helping his side qualify for the IPL finals. His partnerships with Virat Kohli were a class apart.
De Villiers’ exploits in white-ball cricket sometimes overshadow his achievements in Tests. A batting average of fifty-plus in Test cricket with hundreds in India, the UAE, Australia and England. He mastered all the conditions, having started as an opener in Test cricket and then played as a designated wicketkeeper when team needed. He won Test series away from home, which is considered as an achievement of the highest order, and he had an immense contribution in South Africa’s victories in Australia, England, New Zealand and a drawn series in India in 2008.
We may not hear those reverberating chats of ‘ABD! ABD’ again. We may not see those exploits against the best in the business or those sixes over fine leg and third man or those reverse sweeps against fast bowlers. But what fun we had experiencing this generation’s greatest batsman!
AB, here’s wishing you all the luck for you second innings. I hope it to be as exciting as the first was.