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Diminishing South Africa caps shows AB de Villiers was disinterested

South African great AB de Villiers announced his retirement from international cricket all of a sudden on Wednesday.

cricket Updated: May 24, 2018 18:21 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
South Africa's star batsman AB de Villiers on May 23 announced he was retiring from all international cricket after a 14-year career.
South Africa's star batsman AB de Villiers on May 23 announced he was retiring from all international cricket after a 14-year career.(AFP)

Among cricketers of his generation, AB de Villiers stood out for his ability to change gears at will and be successful at it. While he is credited with scoring the fastest century in ODIs, he has also participated in ‘blockathons’ – Test matches where South Africa have batted or tried to bat out time, famously making 30-odd runs off over 200 deliveries against Australia at Adelaide.

Even in limited-overs cricket, he would pace his innings well, starting off at a rather normal pace before clobbering the bowlers towards the end.

READ | AB de Villiers was by far the standout performer in IPL 2018

However, of late, the South African star batsman had seemed either a bit disinterested or incapable of building knocks. Even as he claimed in his retirement speech that he takes pride in representing his country, the former SA captain has played relatively fewer internationals over the last two years than in the period of two years preceding that.

South Africa played 74 internationals over the last two years, but de Villiers played just 43 of them (including seven T20s). This after he played 36 non-international T20 games.

In the period of two years before this one – May 24, 2014 to May 24, 2016 —, while SA played 85 internationals, de Villiers featured in 69 of them.

Worst hit over the last two years was South Africa’s Test cricket, where AB played in just eight of the 25 Test matches although it is a format where SA’s quota policy has the least affect, with whites outnumbering players of colour.

It perhaps shows that international cricket hasn’t been his preference over the past couple of years. He has shown that through his knocks too where he has played in only one gear, trying to hit out from the word go.

READ | AB de Villiers hailed by Bollywood stars after he announces retirement

Earlier this year, as India raced to a 3-0 lead in the ODI series in South Africa, the hosts hoped the return of AB de Villiers for the last three games would galvanise the side. In the first match upon return at Johannesburg, AB made 26 off 18 balls before holing out to deep. It seemed an irresponsible shot as SA had the game in sight, needing 105 off 68 deliveries, a total within reach these days.

In the next match, he fell to an innocuous delivery outside off, trying to slash away from the body even as the need after two quick wickets was to stay on and build a partnership with Hashim Amla, who looked settled. SA, chasing 274, were reduced to 65/3 with AB’s dismissal.

In the last match, he was settled on 30 off 34 deliveries but backed away too far outside leg and tried to cut a spinner, only to be bowled.

Contrast that with his last two ODI centuries against India, back in 2015. On way to his 61-ball 119 at Mumbai, where SA sealed the series with a facile win, AB began with caution and reached his half-century off 34 balls before hitting the top gear.

READ | AB de Villiers welcome: Chris Lynn invites South African for Big Bash League

In the game before that, at Chennai, he made 107-ball 112, reaching his fifty off as many as 67 balls.

Even in IPL, he played his innings in one gear. When it came against DD and CSK in Bangalore, RCB made good scores. But when it didn’t like against CSK in Pune, he looked clumsy, getting out off a nothing shot --- reverse sweep against Harbhajan when RCB had lost two of their best bats with powerplay just over.

First Published: May 24, 2018 18:17 IST