Cricketer of the Week (January 12-18): AB de Villiers
Last week saw some very good performances from several cricketers. David Warner scored a hundred in the first game of the ODI tri-series versus England, Mitchell Starc produced a superb spell of fast bowling in the second game, picking up 6 for 43 in 10 overs, Rohit Sharma scored a fine 138 off 139 balls.
But one man snatched away this week's Cricketer of the Week tag by playing an innings that will not only be spoken about in his country for decades to come, but also by the whole cricketing fraternity until something as monumental as this effort ever comes up again.
A rapid start to his innings
South Africa were playing the West Indies at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Sunday. On the fall of the wicket of opener Rilee Rossouw, Proteas captain AB de Villiers walked out to bat at number 3 and started to take on the West Indian bowling attack from the word go. The first 6 deliveries he faced produced 24 runs and everybody watching could sense that something very special was definitely on the cards.
That feeling began to materialise at a rapid rate when the 30-year-old took just 10 more balls to notch up his half-century, off just 16 balls, thereby overtaking former Sri Lankan opener Sanath Jayasuriya for the fastest fifty in a One-Day International (ODI).
Following that, de Villiers continued to make the West Indian attack look nothing short of pedestrian, by slamming boundaries to all corners of the stadium. We hear commentators talk about awarding more than six runs for a particular shot. Some of de Villiers’s shots during his stay in the middle certainly did deserve more than just half a dozen.
The fastest ODI century ever
He got to his hundred courtesy a six over mid-wicket off the bowling of Jason Holder. His first fifty took 16 balls while his next fifty took him a ball less. That meant that Corey Anderson's record for the fastest hundred in an ODI off 36 balls was history and de Villiers had become the new record holder. He reached the mark off just 31 balls and got a standing ovation from the dressing room and everyone present at the ground.
The carnage, however, didn't stop there as the Royal Challengers Bangalore batsman continued to smash the Caribbean attack to all parts of the ground in an exhibition that will remain in the minds of cricket fans forever.
He was eventually dismissed in the final over of the innings for an unbelievable 149 off 59 balls. The knock contained 9 fours and 16 sixes. That tally of half a dozens also equalled the record for the most hits over the fence in an innings. Rohit Sharma hit the same number of sixes during his 209 against Australia at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru in 2013.
The effort helped South Africa post 439 for 2 on the board in their 50 overs. Despite half-centuries from Dwayne Smith and Denesh Ramdin, the visitors fell short of the target by 148 runs to give the hosts a 2-0 lead in the series.
He also received praise from West Indian wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin, who called it one of the best ODI knocks he had ever seen.
Can de Villiers inspire South Africa to a World Cup triumph?
De Villiers made his international debut as a 20-year-old in 2004 against England in Port Elizabeth. Although he gained recognition as a terrific fielder early on in his career, his prowess with the bat began to grow as seasons passed by. Today, he is widely considered as the best batsman in the world.
The Proteas are considered to be among the strong contenders to win the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand starting next month and they would be hoping that their best batsman carries his imperious form with the bat into the mega event and helps them go all the way, this time around.
Here's a tweet showing the wagon wheel of his batting.
Wagon wheel from ABdV innings of 149 from y'day. Look at the cover region. pic.twitter.com/5dG545eUDv— Subash Jayaraman (@thecricketcouch) January 19, 2015
You can catch the past winners of this series on this link: Recent Cricketers of the Week