Having touched the pinnacles of stardom with his flamboyant batting style around the world, AB de Villiers has become one of the game’s modern greats in the last decade. Yet, a recurring childhood dream that De Villiers had for a long time, still remains unfulfilled. And he talks about it in his autobiography.
In a chapter titled ‘The Dream’, the 32-year old narrates a childhood dream where he is playing the World Cup final, fielding at cover. In the dream, a left-handed batsman drives the ball towards De Villiers, who dives at full stretch and runs towards the stumps and takes off the bails. It ends with South Africa winning the World Cup.
The scene is similar to Jonty Rhodes’ heroics while fielding against Pakistan in the 1992 World Cup, where he ran-out Inzamam-ul-Haq with a full-stretched dive onto the stumps. The Proteas, however, couldn’t attain glory in that edition, and are still in pursuit of that elusive crown, even 24 years later.
For De Villiers, the greatest disappointment of his career was the defeat to New Zealand in the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup. For six consecutive World Cups, South Africa had been faltering at the biggest stage, a fact that has led them to be labelled as ‘chokers’.
The South African superstars had high hopes from the 2015 edition, claiming it to be the ‘perfect opportunity to move beyond the history of frustration and pain’. He reveals how he became more confident as the tournament approached, and as captain, he had the belief to banish the ‘chokers’ tag.
Russell Domingo, the coach, tried to maintain some calm as the Cup neared, asking the players to focus on the basics because it was ‘just a tournament’. De Villiers gives a comprehensive account of their journey throughout the tournament, right up to the semi-final against New Zealand, where his dream came down crashing.
He describes the final over, bowled by Dale Steyn, with New Zealand requiring 12 runs to win. Grant Elliott was the unlikely hero for the Kiwis, smashing a six off the penultimate delivery to take his team past the finishing line. At that moment, the dream came flashing back in front of him. The contrasting images of his dream run-out coincided with the reality of a devastated Dale Steyn lying on the pitch.
For a good 20 seconds, De Villiers was zoned out, before he gathered himself and walked over to shake hands with the triumphant side. He received a massive hug from his RCB teammate, Daniel Vettori, that brought a lump to his throat and tears in his eyes. ‘You didn’t deserve to lose’, Vettori said.
As he walked out to meet his family, his father came and hugged him. As he held his hand, he said: “It is not your fault, AB. It is not your fault’. That is when tears came rolling down his eyes.
De Villiers somehow managed to recover and attend the post-match presentation and the subsequent media conference. He later concedes how five missed opportunities, including three run-out chances, cost them the World Cup.