AB de Villiers is in decline and it is sad to see as an ardent fan
I am a cricket fan. A fan who loves following the game. A fan who has certain favorite players and loves watching them in full swing. A fan who does not believe in supporting players only from his own country, whose love for the game is beyond boundaries of a nation to appreciate talent and performance. Hence, I am an ardent fan who loves to watch AB de Villiers, probably the most exciting batting talent to ever exist in the game.
I use the word exciting to describe AB, because while there are many other batsmen in the world like Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Joe Root and Kane Williamson, who could be talented, disciplined and technically sound, but none of them is as unorthodox and as exciting to watch as ABD. While one may like watching any of the above batsmen on the crease, it has a different feel when ABD comes to bat, as you can expect things happening on the cricket field which can be considered unbelievable!
ABD has fans like me across the world, who look at him as a magician. After all, a 31 ball century can't be the work of a mere mortal! You really have to watch him bat to believe how easily he can hit a six at fine leg, off a fast bowler's length ball outside off stump! But all these fans have been missing the old ABD for quite some time now. Apart from a mighty 176 against a relatively weak Bangladesh attack, the last memory of the mighty ABD at his best comes from the 2015, where he smashed 3 centuries on the India tour. Post that, while there have been many decent knocks, the typical ABD magic has been missing.
No cricket fan can ever forget the scenes at the World Cup semi-final that South Africa lost, with all the South African players crying tearfully, sitting at the ground. As many of them including AB set their sight on the next world cup in 2019, there is a certain disconnect from the present that could be seen. So much that when de Villiers took a break from test matches to address mental fatigue, his close friend and schoolmate Faf du Plessis, did not shy away from accepting that he would prefer that the team management stops waiting for AB's return.
The tour by India has highlighted another major point that many of us might have forgotten: 'All good things come to an end'. It hurts to even think of an end to the phenomenon called ABD, but one has to accept that he has missed half the matches on the tour due to injuries and hasn't been able to make a significant impact in any of the ODIs that he has played. While there were some good knocks in the test matches, scores of 26, 6 and 30 in the ODIs do not do justice to what he is, and what he can do. He does show some part of the exquisite timing and placement in his shots, but the supremacy and dominance he once had over the bowlers seems missing.
He has been quite vocal about how he has this ultimate dream of winning the 2019 World Cup, but with many good teams around, and many other talented batsmen in every team, his dream may not come true unless he does something different, something extraordinary, something that truly only AB de Villiers can do. But for that, he must be present on the field, and at 34, it may not be too easy to maintain his fitness, and even his reflexes, ones that could change a glide to third man to a scoop towards fine leg in a nano second.
As a fan, you still expect that he will come back to his best, both physically and mentally. He will again weave the magic around his opponents, to turn matches on their head purely by the amazing skill that he possesses. There is no reason that he cannot do it again, for he is the magician. But as of now, it hurts to be waiting for that special innings, while he is either getting dismissed, or not playing at all. It is sad to see a hero like AB just being ordinary, when you know how exceptional he can be.