AB De Villiers took over leading-star status at the ongoing World Cup with his 66-ball 162 against the West Indies, an innings which set the cricketing world alight. The Proteas captain is arguably the best cricketer of these times – however, what is not as well known about him is that he could easily have been making the same kind of impact in hockey, football, rugby, swimming, athletics, tennis or badminton.
Cricket is fortunate ABD chose the gentleman’s game.
As the versatile genius says, his choosing cricket was a matter entirely of chance. “I was eight years old when I saw Jonty’s world famous run out against Pakistan in the 1992 World Cup. It really made an impression on me. I remember thinking: this is a cool game! I started dreaming of following in Jonty’s footsteps.”
Here is a list of sports AB has excelled in soon after he joined Afrikaanse Hoer Seunskool, a premier sporting institute in South Africa, at the age of 13:
He was shortlisted for South Africa's junior national hockey team.
He made it to the shortlist of South Africa's junior national football team.
He was captain of South Africa's junior national rugby team.
He holds six South African school swimming records.
He holds the record in the 100m dash in South Africa's junior athletics.
He was a member of South Africa's junior Davis Cup tennis team.
He was South Africa's U-19 national badminton champion.
Has a golf handicap of scratch or zero, which means he is a player whose average score for a round of golf is par or better.
Elder brothers were merciless when it came to sports: AB de Villiers
De Villiers grew up in a competitive atmosphere, possibly the foundations of the cool temperment he keeps under unbelievable pressure – elder brothers Jan and Wessels made ABD earn every success he got as a child, be it in cricket or the other sports religously played in the household.
As the current Proteas captain recalls, “I had to carry the water and, after a long day, they would finally give me my chance. I was a little boy and they would all try to intimidate me. The bat was actually too heavy for me.
“They battled to get me out and they would get so frustrated that they’d bowl a couple of beamers at me to see what I would do. Saturday games at our house in Bela Bela were very competitive. My brothers were merciless. They were monsters. There were always a lot of tears—usually mine.”
Cast your mind to the impossible shots ABD seems to conjure up with ease, getting into postures no other batsman would dream of – and thank fortune that he had bullies for elder brothers. Otherwise, cricket would have been denied the whole new scope of improvization the scrawny lad from Pretoria has injected the game with.
Du Plessis and Afrikaanse Hoer Seunskool
Tennis was the sport ABD took an initial liking to, before leaving it behind for the the charm of team sports. He participated in numerous U-16 tournaments and even defeated Izak ven der Merwe in his first ever competitive game, a player who would go on to represent South Africa in tennis later.
When De Villiers enrolled in the famous Afrikaanse Hoer Seunskool at the age of 13, it was finally time for him to make the choice of which sport he wanted to make a living by. He met Faf du Plessis and Jacques Rudolph in the cricketing set-up of this famous school, and made it to the Under-14 cricket team of the school.
The rest, as they say, is history.
If the likes of Corey Anderson and Shakib al Hasan make up one’s definition of a complete all-rounder, an overview of ABD’s amazing life and career makes a drastic re-evaluation necessary in one’s worldview.