Former South Africa Test captain AB de Villiers said he had “run out of gas” when he announced his retirement from international cricket. The 34-year-old played in 114 Test matches, 228 one-day internationals and 78 Twenty20 matches for the Proteas.
But on the evidence of what we are seeing this IPL season, he’s got plenty of gas left and South Africa would love to add him to their World Cup squad [the squads can be changed right up to a week before the tournament begins on May 30].
As the Royal Challengers Bangalore got their fourth win in five games, the South African superstar was at the forefront of their batting and fielding efforts.
In 10 matches this season, he has piled on 414 runs at an average of 59.14 and a strike-rate of 158.01. Those numbers alone are intimidating enough but when they are allied with his match awareness, they take on a different dimension.
Soon after de Villiers had come in to bat on Wednesday, RCB collapsed from 71/1 in 6.1 overs to 81/4 in 8.6 overs. Three wickets in the space of 17 balls was a kick in the guts for Kohli’s team despite the good start that Parthiv Patel had given them.
This is when Marcus Stoinis joined de Villiers in the middle. With Kings XI Punjab’s spinners bowling, there was little on offer for the batsmen. So they just waited and used the period to settle in.
At the 14-over mark, De Villiers had worked his way to 25 off 25 balls and Stoinis had 15 off 17. RCB had trudged their way to 109/4. The South African later revealed that at this point in the game, they thought that a total of around 160 would be competitive.
But then things started to click into gear for de Villiers — the fours and the sixes started to flow and he played some truly outrageous shots including a one-handed, no-look hook that somehow went for six.
Watch: The AB de Villiers no-look six
Few players in the game have ever had the virtuosity of de Villiers. There is no part of the field that he cannot hit and once he starts to manipulate the field, he becomes a very dangerous batsman to contain.
From striking it at 100 till he reached 25, the South African sped to striking it at over 300 in next 19 balls.
AB de Villiers in T20s in 2019
Innings - 23
Runs - 879
AVG - 58.60
SR - 152.07
Best - 100*
100 - 1
50 - 6
Fours - 66
Sixes - 47
His form has been consistent in T20 cricket through the year and as one goes through the SA squad, it is clear that they still haven’t found a worthy replacement. As solid as SA look, they clearly look a different side with de Villiers in a mix.
He clearly wants to still play cricket and has already said that he is eyeing a stint at the Big Bash League later this year. But perhaps the pressures of playing for South Africa are in a different league.
De Villiers still hasn’t won a World Cup and with him playing so well, the temptation to come back will be there. Dale Steyn, his old mate, has been named in the squad and is raring to go. But the mental stress of it all might be the key here given how SA tend to choke at such events.
Still, in a way, this is perhaps a sign of things to come. We see this a lot in international football. Players retire from internationals and continue to play club football for a long time after that.
By the time the next World Cup comes around, the T20 leagues will be entrenched even better and the money will be greater. And that is when we might see country vs club debate really catch on.
The Boards want to make more money from the sport and clearly, the best way to do that is to have a longer season for the IPL-style leagues and perhaps introduce formats like ‘The Hundred’. For now, international cricket remains important to most of the big stars but for how much longer can the status quo be maintained?
The choice, in this case, is clearly for de Villiers to make and he has made it too. But a lot of South Africans and a lot of cricket fans will wonder what might have been each time the Proteas take the field during the World Cup.