AB de Villiers © Getty Images
AB de Villiers is now the record-holder for fastest ODI ton © Getty Images

AB de Villiers mauled the West Indies into submission with a mind-boggling 149 off 44 balls. He went on to record the fastest fifty off 16 balls and then got his ton off 31 deliveries, thereby breaking Corey Anderson’s record for the fastest ton in One-Day Internationals (ODIs). Nishad Pai Vaidya goes down memory lane and points out the significance of the corresponding fastest tons in ODIs since 1996.

AB de Villiers is a modern master — perhaps the greatest batsmen across formats. In an era where batsmen have to adjust to the contrasting demands of the three formats, this South African genius makes a seamless transition bringing about the element of dominance in each. Give him the bat in the white flannels and he can bat for hours, unleashing his aggressive side when needed. But, put him in coloured clothing and bowlers have to run for cover. On his day, he is an unstoppable force — a juggernaut that blows away the opposition.

But, where does de Villiers’ latest effort rank alongside some of the previous fast tons in ODIs? All of them were brutal in their own right and redefined the record books. Let us revisit de Villiers’ ton and those before him to evaluate their context.

AB de Villiers: 149 off 44 balls vs West Indies, 2013 (100 off 31 balls)

In many ways, it was an era-defining innings. De Villiers’ knock had an element of power and grace during his outrageous display. Chris Gayle, who is also de Villiers’ teammate at Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), had smashed a ton off 30 balls in a T20 in 2013. That was pure power, but de Villiers was more about finesses and dexterity combined with that power. This innings is also proof of the fact that a batsman with a sound technique can excel in any format. The innovation successfully becomes a part of your game only when your base is strong. Though de Villiers moved around quite a bit, some of the lofted drives through the off-side brought in an element of class. On all counts, de Villiers gets full marks for his performance for it was the art of aggressive batting in one capsule.

Corey Anderson: 131 not out off 47 balls vs West Indies, 2014 (100 off 36 balls)

As the New Year donned, Corey Anderson hit headlines when he carted the West Indies for a 36-ball ton. Not many had heard about the New Zealand all-rounder; even Shahid Afridi, the previous record holder hadn’t. But Anderson’s display of pure power bullied the West Indies. The ease with which he carted the ball around stood out. The slogs over mid-wicket were the normal prototype. This knock brought him into the limelight, and played a crucial role in him winning an Indian Premier League (IPL) contract. Afridi’s century off 37 balls had stood the test of time for nearly 18 years before Anderson could break it. Thus, Anderson showed the world that Afridi’s mark could be breached in ODIs.

Shahid Afridi: 102 off 40 balls vs Sri Lanka, 1996 (100 off 37 balls)

Imagine a 16-year-old leg-spinner — with decent batting ability — being thrust into the No. 3 spot. Think about nerves? Not Afridi. The Pakistani maverick announced his arrival to the world with a blazing 100 off only 37 balls. This was only his second ODI, and his first innings in international cricket. Showing no signs of fear or awe, he smashed his way to a crazed century, usurping Sanath Jayasuriya’s record. Jayasuriya had achieved it off only 48 balls six months before Afridi against Pakistan. On behalf of his teammates, it was payback time for Afridi. This innings brought Afridi to international cricket as the world took notice. One-day cricket was still played with a more traditional mindset back in 1996, and Afridi showed that it was possible that one could score a ton in under 40 balls.

Sanath Jayasuriya: 134 off 65 balls vs Pakistan, 1996 (100 off 48 balls)

Fresh from the success of the 1996 World Cup, Jayasuriya only went on to add to his aura as the most feared opening batsman in the world. Sri Lanka had revolutionised world cricket when then-captain Arjuna Ranatunga asked Romesh Kaluwitharana and Jayasuriya to open the batting and exploit the fielding restrictions. And boy, didn’t they do it well! Jayasuriya injected more life into the opening role and this innings had played a major role in that. On previous occasions, he had carted a few attacks into submission. This time, he went on to convert that into a big one. That too was an era-defining knock for 1996, a time when one-day cricket was entering a new phase in terms of batting. He also broke Mohammad Azharuddin’s record, who had achieved it off 62 balls against New Zealand in 1988.

Complete coverage of AB de Villiers’ fastest ODI century

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)