An epic Innings that left cricket aficionados awestruck
On a fine afternoon of 23rd May 2018, when whole of India was gearing up for an exciting IPL eliminator (KKR vs RR), Englishmen were debating over the inclusion of Jos Buttler and Dominic Bess in the Test side and when the Australians were figuring a way out of the ball-tampering dilemma, right then amidst all this hyperactivity, an apocalypse struck the cricketing world. A universal phenomenon, a legend, a proud captain and a charismatic character Abraham Benjamin de Villiers hung his boots and walked away nonchalantly from the stage with a tremendous sense of satisfaction that only an honest performer can boast of.
It was widely expected that De Villiers would hang his boots in international cricket but nobody could anticipate the suddenness of this event. It was a bombshell which came out of the blue and unsettled the world. Without prior indication, his selfless move caused havoc overnight, it devastated millions of hearts in India as well as demolished thousands of South Africans’ World Cup dream. There was distress in the cricket fraternity, tears in the eyes of his worshippers. In fact, fans still wished to harbor a fleeting hope of his comeback where ABD could possibly return just for them. People couldn’t believe in their senses, the superman, who till a few days back was slaughtering the bowlers all around the park won’t be seen donning national colors anymore.
Let’s Understand him better
All these years, we have witnessed AB de Villiers – Mr. 360 batsman, fearless wicket-keeper, conscientious captain, outstanding fieldsman and a fabulous team player but somewhere in the awe of his game, we never stressed over “ABD-The Human Being”. AB played cricket relentlessly, scored copiously, entertained thoroughly and walked away silently but didn’t he deserve to call his own shots, right? Modern day cricket is quite demanding, usually, all formats’ players spend over 200-210 days in a year out of the country traveling, playing cricket, doing a lot of training to stay in shape and several advertisement campaigns. It must be excruciatingly tiring, switching from cricket mode to family mode.
He’ll be missed especially for national duties
As AB de Villiers mentioned in his retirement speech, “For me, in the green and gold, it must be everything or nothing.” So, for him, it was all or none – an approach which essentially lays out his integrity and commitment towards his country and sport. Playing across the formats is a herculean task and it demands plenty of sacrifices, plain and simple. Moreover, he also revealed that he was running out of gas. People may speculate from his recent outings that he has still got some years of cricket in him but what’s going inside only he could decipher. Maybe he is absolutely tired or his cylinders don’t have the same fire now that they used to have earlier. Nevertheless, his 14-years long international career never went through a dull moment, it was always thrilling and gripping.
Cricket South Africa (CSA) is already running low on funds with the postponement of Global T20 League and then ABD’s retirement, which would hurt the board immensely. He was the cash cow for CSA, who could fill their coffers in the blink of an eye. He had the ability to gather masses – to fill the stadiums be it in India, Bangladesh, Australia or England. The demigod had a worldwide fan following. Sachin Tendulkar had his detractors, Ricky Ponting had critics, even Steve Waugh wasn’t appreciated everywhere he’d gone but ABD has never been disregarded anywhere in the world with the minor exception of his team being labeled with the Chokers tag.
Choking or wilting if faced with extraordinary expectations of producing results is actually a hypothesis, which equally suits all the teams that falter under pressure. Unluckily South Africa is carrying that tag. Hadn’t Sri-Lanka deflated under pressure in 2007 WC and in 2011 WC at Wankhede? Haven’t been New Zealand on the same curve in all their WC campaigns with a high number of defeats in the knockout stages?? That’s not the only criteria you measure the success of a team. Believe it or not, the entire world cried with ABD and his teammates, when they couldn’t qualify for the 2015 World Cup Final. Those memories are everlasting and still send chills down the spine of every cricket lover.
Things to ponder
It would not be impossible to claim that his ability to read the ball can’t be cracked, his capability of unorthodox play can’t be worked upon, his wicket-keeping skills can’t be learned, his fielding ability can’t be challenged and his gamesmanship can’t be found but it also won’t be fair to club all these competencies in a single basket. His style and skills could serve as a manual for future generations who want to learn about sports and excel in it as well. There have been players, who were good at one or maybe two aspects of the game but not all. Over more than 150 years long cricketing history, the world has probably never been more privileged to witness such an unorthodox player and it is this quality of AB which will always make him stand apart from the crowd.
On his day, AB had the ability to make bowlers feel completely helpless. Mesmerized, we all watched in awe his stupendous 44 ball 149 at Wanderers, where records were tumbling at one end but he had no plans to show mercy to the West Indies. He unleashed the beast mode as soon as he entered the ground. Another whirlwind innings was his 61-ball 109* at Wankhede, where three Africans scored hundreds but it was ABD who stole the show. Despite his ruthlessness against Indian bowlers, the stadium was chanting ABD, ABD. And that’s exactly what ABD brought to the table – a sheer entertainer, a class player with an unorthodox style, graceful humility and immense generosity.
We have seen players coming of age but only few of them touch the heart and soul together. AB was that prodigy. He’s not only pride of the nation, he is universal pride. We can’t capture his fabulous journey in few words but we can certainly thank him for entertaining us thoroughly throughout his career.
He was a Knight in cricketing gear, who waved his bat instead of sword to conquer the world, he fought with courage and audacity in battlefield, he combated with honour and integrity in every outing, he served his kingdom tenaciously, he spread the joy with his unwavering innings, he made allies but never foes, he never reigned over any empire but he indisputably ruled millions of hearts, he was loyal and faithful to his game as well his people, he eventually resigned from his duties quietly and in an assured manner typifying an innings well played. There will never be another AB and unquestionably cricket would never be the same without you.