AB de Villiers has been phenomenal for RCB in IPL 2021. (IPL/Twitter)
AB de Villiers has been phenomenal for RCB in IPL 2021. (IPL/Twitter)

ABD: The force behind RCB's great early run

  • IPL 2021: AB de Villiers is having a crazy run in this IPL playing starring roles in three of his team’s five wins to power them to the top of the table.
By Sanjjeev K Samyal, Mumbai
UPDATED ON APR 29, 2021 09:13 AM IST

The three sixes that AB de Villiers hit in the final over of the Royals Challengers Bangalore’s innings on Tuesday against Delhi Capitals provided a good answer as to why he is such a devastating batsman in Twenty20 cricket.

Marcus Stoinis is an experienced bowler. He likes to read the batsman’s movement and change his line and length at the last minute to follow the batsman to cramp him or bowl wider to make it out of his reach.

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It works against most batsmen. Against de Villiers’ it did not. The reason: the RCB legend read all his moves. Stoinis didn’t bowl badly, he tested him with the fuller length, tried to cramp him for room and go wider. The South African genius had an answer for all.

The first six was drilled straight down the ground off a full, outside off delivery. For the second six he jumped right outside his off-stump to get inside the line of the ball and pull it for a six. With the full-ball and the one into the body paying no dividends, Stoinis’ tried to go wide off the off stump on the fifth ball of the over. The response: De Villiers slashed it over the cover fence using tremendous bat speed to generate power for the third six of the over.

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It was an exhibition of his cricketing intelligence, which is what makes the South African such a special player. Add his copybook batting technique to his ability to think on his feet, and you have the best T20 batsman in the world even at the age of 37.

For Dale Steyn, it is the way de Villiers’ “eyes and hands work together so wonderfully” that makes him special. Second is “courage”. He plays those ramp shots (like a lot of other batsmen also do) when he gets down on his knee but de Villiers’ never takes his eyes off the ball, said Steyn when asked to explain the genius of de Villiers during commentary on Tuesday.

Steyn knows his game best. They are close friends. At South Africa they have been teammates for long. And the great fast bowler also knows what it is to be on the receiving end of AB’s blade in the IPL.

In the 2014 edition, at Bengaluru’s M Chinnaswamy Stadium, with Steyn leading the Sunrisers Hyderabad attack, de Villiers took him for 24 runs in the 19th over of the innings on way to a match-winning 89 not out. Steyn’s first three overs had gone for just 16 runs. At the same venue, two years earlier, de Villiers’ had smashed 23 runs off a Steyn over.

Coming back to last night’s game, after 19 overs, De Villiers was 53 off 36 and RCB 148 for five. With three sixes in the final over he changed the complexion of the game. His 42-ball unbeaten 75 powered RCB to 171 for five as after coming in at 60 for three, he made 75 of the 111 RCB got. In a game of close margins, the 23-run 20th over by Stoinis went a long way in the Bangalore team winning the match.

During the process of the innings, the legendary player became the fastest batsman to reach 5,000 runs in IPL in terms of balls taken. He reached 5000 runs in 3288 balls to better David Warner’s effort of reaching the landmark in 3554 balls. Among the Indian batsmen, Suresh Raina is the fastest to the mark in 3620 balls, Rohit Sharma took 3817 and Kohli 3827.

“Once you're into the tournament, it's more about managing yourself, make sure you're fresh every game. You can't go into the game feeling fatigued. I've really done some work at home and we have treadmills in the room. I've done all the work and now it's all about being as fresh as I can when I go out to bat. We've got a couple of experienced heads and a couple of young Indian bowlers who have done well in international cricket recently. Myself, Maxi (Glenn Maxwell) and Virat (Kohli) have played a lot. We just try to have fun out there. I've forced myself to savour it,” said de Villiers during the presentation ceremony after winning his second man of the match award.

Overall, he hit five sixes in the innings with his first coming off left-arm spinner Axar Patel, in the 15th over, and second off Kagiso Rabada in the 18th. He picked up the hit over midwicket off another South African, Rabada, as his favourite: “I was asked this question after I batted - no offence to KG but the one over midwicket was my best one.”

He is having a crazy run in this IPL playing starring roles in three of his team’s five wins to power them to the top of the table. In their tournament opener he won them the game against defending champions Mumbai Indians with an innings of 48 off just 27 balls in a chase of 160 on a tricky Chennai pitch where stroke-making wasn’t easy.

Against Kolkata Knight Riders he tore apart their death overs specialist Andre Russell to power RCB to a match-winning total of 204 for four with an unbeaten 76 off 34 balls (9 fours, 3 sixes at a strike rate of 223.52). Russell bowled the 18th and 20th overs of the innings, conceding 17 and 21 runs.

“I did play well and had a lot of fun. The most important thing is I'm enjoying myself and my cricket - my family is here,” said de Villiers’ after the KKR game.

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