Genius. Legend. Mr.360. A player who tested the boundaries of brilliance each and every time he stepped out. Abraham Benjamin de Villiers was just the player that made cricket a destructive piece of art every time he wielded the willow. Seldom in the history of the game do you see the destruction being so beautiful. AB de Villiers was one such individual. On his 38th birthday, the words legend, big brother, and genius openly flowed out on social media.
What made AB de Villiers such a freak of nature? Was it his ability to hit all over the ground in a 360 degree way? Perhaps. But, it was perhaps the sheer inevitability of AB de Villiers terrorizing opposition that made him such a valuable asset. At the peak of his powers, AB de Villiers would come on and just hit the bowling all over the park for fun. Be it franchise cricket, ODI or Test cricket, AB de Villiers had an air of assurance that bowlers would not be spared.
If there is one year where de Villiers showed his class, it was in 2015. The unlucky opponent in both cases was the West Indies. ABD smashed the fastest 100 off 31 balls and the fastest 150 a couple of months later in the 2015 ICC World Cup match in Sydney. In both these knocks, it was the sheer brutality that stood out. From ball one, de Villiers was in the zone. He tore into the West Indies bowling and swept pace bowlers to fine leg.
When the death overs approached, de Villiers would always raise the tempo. If he was batting in sixth gear, he would go to seventh gear in a matter of minutes. The best part about de Villiers was that he never let the tempo down in the end situations. India, West Indies, Australia and many other nations have fallen at his brilliance.
His partnership with Virat Kohli and Chris Gayle for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL made him a bonafide legend. Kohli was the run-machine. Gayle was the tour-de-force in the RCB camp. De Villiers was a mixture of both and that made him deadlier than the duo.
For a man who averaged over 50 in both formats, it is a damning indictment that he never won a single title. In bilateral tours, he was at the helm in South Africa’s epic wins in Australia and England in 2008 and 2012. But, in those tears that he shed when South Africa lost to New Zealand in the 2015 ICC World Cup semifinal, hope extinguished. He probably realized it. The fact that he did not win a single IPL or ICC title is a perplexing legacy for such a genius.
Perhaps, the brilliance of de Villiers proved to be his biggest enemy. If he failed, the shock of his dismissal would be too high for players to comprehend. The fact that he retired suddenly when South Africa was gunning up to prepare for the World Cup in 2019 did not win him fans. de Villiers was performing splendidly in franchise cricket. But, in international cricket, he made himself unavailable before pulling in the plug. He tested a comeback on two occasions. But, each time, he could not get in.
When AB de Villiers retired from all forms of cricket, the sadness was universal. On his 38th birthday, every moment of AB de Villiers is been cherished. There will never be anyone like AB de Villiers. Happy birthday to Mr.360, an individual who revolutionized the game.