I’m sure all of you have seen the “Most interesting man in the world” shtick from Dos Equis beer commercials. Take the most outrageous thing one can do, and attribute it to the suave looking middle-aged man. We all know it’s not real but we watch it because it’s funny.
But, it won’t be too farfetched if AB de Villiers were to be cast as the most interesting man in the world. It would still be funny but we might start to believe that some of those outrageous claims are actually real.
According to the ICC Rankings, de Villiers is the best batsman in Tests and ODIs. Actually, we don’t need the rankings to tell us that, just our eyesight in working order. He has just completed 10 years of international cricket, averaging 52 in Tests, and 51.50 in ODIs. He fields like a demon and keeps wickets like it’s the easiest thing to do in the world. Within the South African team, they call him “Spiderman”.
Now to all that, add the following: Captain of South Africa’s junior national rugby team, six national school swimming records, record for 100m dash in South Africa junior athletics, U-19 national badminton champion, Zero handicap in Golf, and Shortlisted for junior national hockey and football teams. Oh, he also plays the guitar, makes music records, and appears in music videos belting out soaring vocals while looking dapper.
Today at the Newlands cricket ground, he scored a seemingly effortless 148 off 194 balls while taking South Africa to a position of ascendancy – 1st innings lead of 92 runs – in the 3rd Test of the series. He is the top scorer of the series with 310 runs in just three innings, with two massive hundreds, 20th and 21st of his career.
He began the day on 32 and quickly got in to his stride, dispatching the first ball he faced, an easy full toss from Marlon Samuels, to the midwicket boundary. Soon, half century was raised, off just 70 deliveries. While other SA batsmen were cautiously moving the score along at a perfectly acceptable strike rates around 50, including skipper Hashim Amla who also has scored in excess of 300 runs in the series, de Villiers was motoring along at a rate in excess of 70.
People argue that T20 cricket is not an even contest between bat and ball. I’ll tell you what’s an uneven contest: Any bowler in the world facing de Villiers with a bat in hand.
It took a superlative swinging delivery from Jerome Taylor at Port Elizabeth – the ball pitched on middle and the outswing made it go past the attempted flick and uprooted the off stump – to dismiss de Villiers. In the two other outings, de Villiers literally had to gift his wicket away in search of quick runs.
Resuming on 84 after the lunch interval, de Villiers shifted through the gears and punished the part-time off spin of Samuels for 16 runs in over to register his hundred off just 144 balls.
In the 101st over of the innings, Samuels decided to bowl from around the wicket to create an angle away from the batsman, in hopes of an outside edge. de Villiers reverse swept the fuller delivery that was pitching on offstump for 4. Samuels adjusted the length and de Villiers in complete control by then, waited on back foot fully expecting it, and powerfully slashed for another boundary. Another reverse sweep for a couple, this time from outside leg stump, and a tap to deep midwicket put him on the verge of the century. Is there any other way to get it than another reverse sweep for another boundary? And so, he did.
Even though he is the most outrageous batting talent in the world, de Villiers isn’t perfect. Not yet. After all, he has a bald spot hiding within in his golden locks.
After he got his hundred, South Africa faced a total of 130 deliveries of which de Villiers faced only 50. He was too keen on turning the strike over while batting with the tail. He was involved in two run outs. He wrongly discouraged Simon Harmer from reviewing a LBW decision.
I understand. That’s nitpicking. He is not perfect but he is the closest to perfection we have in the cricket world. And oh by the way, did you know he is also a recipient of a national medal from the great Nelson Mandela for a science project?