AB de Villiers has reworked the syllabus of batting

On paper, AB de Villiers looks like a super human disguised in the form of a fallible mortal, a chemical miracle by Dr X gone amazingly right. It isn’t simply about his skills, but the magnanimity to which he has managed to unleash those powers within. Aayush Puthran puts de Villiers under the microscope.

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”  – Nelson Mandela

AB de Villiers’ early childhood in the mid-1980s intersected with the latter stages of Apartheid and inspired by the heroics of the iconic Nelson Mandela.

De Villiers has given a good account of those words and come out to show to the world how much happiness sports can bring to its people. How passion and zest can unite and inspire them. How it can make them laugh and cry; how it can make them emote and enjoy the little joys of life.

As a batsman, a cricketer and a sportsman, de Villiers boasts of a resume that few, probably none, can. He can smash the fastest 50, 100 and 150 in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) with the same ease with which he can graft a 220-ball 33 to save a Test. He can exhibit shots from the textbook and outside it. In ordinary terms, he has reworked the syllabus of batting.

Apart from the exploits of his willow, he bags crucial wickets with his medium-pacers, keeps wickets and slides and dives like a superman on the field. He also boasts of an envious track record in football, badminton, rugby, swimming and tennis.

On paper, he simply looks like a super human disguised in the form of a fallible mortal, a chemical miracle by Dr X gone amazingly right. It isn’t simply about his skills, but the magnanimity to which he has managed to unleash those powers within. Six days before he thrilled the M Chinnaswamy crowd with an 11-ball 41, de Villiers had shown what makes him standout.

Chasing a target of 167 runs, Sunrises Hyderabad had crossed the 150-run mark with eight wickets in hand. They needed less than run a ball to seal the deal. It would’ve needed a miracle of the highest order to help Royal Challengers Bangalore from thereon when AB de Villiers twisted his ankle and was hurt badly.

He was hobbling and struggling on his way back to the position. Sense said he should’ve walked out of the field right then, the match was out of grasp and the team needed him fit for the rest of the tournament. The spirit of a never-say-die sportsman said, “It was not over till it really was.” The struggle with his ankle became worse and two overs later he had to eventually walk out.

You needed to be there or watch that to believe what de Villiers was really up to. He didn’t give up nor did he let the pain get the better of him. He was in the match and he was willing to take the pain till the match was over. He stayed put and fielded with the same intensity.

So often, it is these men of determination who make cricket interesting, bring in the true essence to the game. Sadly, such inspiring acts rarely get highlighted. Indian Premier League or not, his action deserved more eyeballs and talks than the glamorous and controversial, but redundant show by a few others are so often replayed.

He deserved to be seen by millions, his act deserved to reach the youngsters who take up the game and those who believe cricket teaches life lessons. De Villiers stands as a rare hero, a saviour for those who see cricket becoming a victim of vulgar aggression.

(Aayush Puthran is currently a reporter with India.com. He has previously worked as a cricket journalist with CricketCountry and as an Associate Producer with Sony Six. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)