AB de Villiers retires from all form of cricket, announces via his twitter handle.
Whether it is Cape Town, Bengaluru, Adelaide, London, Antigua, Wellington or Colombo; when a smile with a bat and gloves or hands in the pockets arrives, the whole stadium stand on their feet as if cricket is a game of zero-haters.
On a day when there are some goodbyes in the internet, the retirement of magic man AB de Villiers will be the most emotional one in long weeks to pass.
When a player bids adieu, it’s never about how many runs or wickets or catches that human being had taken on the field but it’s about how many glorious moments attach him with the game and the fans or how he inspires the upcoming generation.
Although, a player may have countless runs or spectacular figures in catching the ball, starting from the point others finish thinking, we will look back at how he becomes the whole planet’s man from being a little kid playing in his backyard.
When one used to observe AB, one somehow got a feeling that he has traits of multiple personality; someone who from being so brutal against the bowlers with a stick in hand can frame himself as a nice humble smiling person running in the field in just a blink of an eye.
AB de Villiers made his debut in 2004 alongside Dale Steyn
AB de Villiers made his debut for South Africa under the captaincy hat of Graeme Smith against England at Port Elizabeth in December 2004. He saw some of the legends in the likes of Allan Donald who retired couple of years ago before his debut and Shaun Pollock who was entering the last phase of his career.
He made his debut alongside Dale Steyn who also impressed during the match when he shattered the stumps of England skipper Michael Vaughan in the second innings.
AB didn’t take too long to declare his presence – scoring 362 runs at an average of 40.22 with one century and two fifties in the 5-Test series. However, that was just a sample copy of what was to arrive in coming years.
ABD’s rise coincided with Proteas’ rise in world cricket
South Africa were slowly approaching towards their golden era in both home and overseas conditions - a team of 11 golden players and an age of their highest dominance.
India is one of the places where most of the countries struggle and especially in those days with Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha making the batters spin and dance on the track in the face of their tweakers. But ABD lived in his formed universe and shone with an unbeaten 217 against India at Ahmedabad in 2008 in a winning battle. It goes without saying that de Villiers had cemented his name in the Proteas eleven by that time.
AB de Villiers is someone from whom you can’t take your eyes off. Someone standing as the centre of attraction, inventing faint gaps, playing the mind of the bowler, knowing the next move of the opposition leader, running the game as he wanted; there had been no one of his stature, there is surely none as of now and one can bet there will be none in the future as well. One could apologize to a long list of players – Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid, Kumar Sangakkara or Virat Kohli. They will in all probability agree with the writer in this regard.
Some of the drives, flicks or stylish wipe-out shots that ABD played and just when the bowler thought he had done everything, the South African great moved just couple of steps wider on the crease and hit a ball over the third man area for half a dozen; most ridiculously he played those shots in a time in which a nice cup of coffee would be easily finished reading a newspaper. People are not brainless to call him Mr. 360.
Man with the fastest hundred in ODI cricket
January 18 is when yours truly’s birthday is and it was on this day when the superman did those spiderman tricks or the block-bluster movie stances in the year 2015 when he hit a swashbuckling 149 (44) against West Indies laced with nine boundaries and a staggering 16 maximums.
If you are yet to watch the highlights of the innings then watch it somewhere because there is no way one can paint it out in just a few words. Those laps, those stepping down the track shots against the pacers, those reverse sweeps or playing a shot against a ball that’s almost out of reach; there should be a disclaimer booming on the television screen: “Never try this at home.”
But it is not just a story of the 44-ball 149, Adelaide 2012 saw him and his best friend, Faf du Plessis sharing a match-saving partnership where the former hung on for a 33 off 220-balls. One could also recall his 381-ball 174 in 2008 against England to get the match in Proteas favour or that Delhi innings where he did his level best to score 43 off 297 but failed to save the game against India. He is one person with several character shades.
ABD is synonymous with RCB
And then arrives RCB. Bangalore has earned a new overseas home boy in his form; if one can match the noise of the ground when Sachin or Dhoni arrives with the voice of the crowd, ABD is surely the one and only player. That 2015 Wankhede Stadium game, India were losing and the home bowlers were treated like schoolboys; still the crowd was cheering and dancing for a reason.
Sometimes, it sounds a bit awkward to hear that ABD is playing as an overseas player in the RCB set-up. The city made their son’s 100th test as a home Test match. Those memorable partnerships with Virat, brother from another mother, can’t be bought in any prizes.
One may have seen many greats and how their forms have dipped when they move on to the last stage in their cricketing careers; well, it was totally opposite for the right-hander. That 126 at Port Elizabeth or 80 and 65 at the Centurion in 2018 when the team was limping after losing the openers cheaply and that too against the opposition bowlers who were in prime form was something that will make him stand out from the normal human beings.
23rd May, 2018, a fine morning? No man! A hard and tough morning. “I’m tired. I’ve had my turn.” 20k plus runs, 400+ matches, 47 centuries and 100+ fifties and ok, tata, bye.
Was he emotional? Cut to 2015, Eden Park. Steyn had been thrown out of the park by Elliot to eliminate South Africa out of the World Cup. Yes, the handkerchiefs were rubbing the face as the tears were rolling down the eyes; probably he knew it would be his last bite of the cherry.
And on 19th November, at around 12 noon, with a little Facebook post he burst out the whole universe.
“It has been an incredible journey, but I have decided to retire from all forms of Cricket.”
The bowlers breathe a sigh of relief.
No more thousand bolt shots or those funky stylish shots or eye-contact running between him and Virat even in IPL; the childhood heroes of this era are slowly erasing in the darkest shadow.
Even without a big ICC trophy, ABD has inspired generations after generations to be connected with the game. The heart is singing – “Abhi naa jao chhod kar, ke dil abhi bhara nahin”.
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