Abraham Benjamin

This is the way to announce your retirement these days:

Many cricketers have been called “the new Don Bradman” over the years. Most have been found lacking in that comparison very quickly, and just one – Sachin Tendulkar – was good enough for The Don to say he batted just like him.

But if Sir Donald came back to Earth in the past ten years and played top-flight cricket, I reckon he’d be a lot like AB de Villiers.

Like de Villiers, Bradman possessed unusual gifts of physical co-ordination. Bradman hit very few sixes at international level because there was simply no reason to do so, but at other levels he displayed a ruthless ability with the bat, and had little respect for orthodoxy. The Don had a range of versatility – he was a champion squash player, a proficient billiards player, even an accomplished pianist – which suggest an ability to adapt successfully to whatever discipline provided the best opportunity of the time.

If the standards of fitness, science or technology were as good in the 1930s as they are today, I believe Bradman would have been out there taking Spiderman catches in front of Yabba and his mates on the SCG fence.

All this is my way of saying that if Donald George Bradman was the outstanding cricket player of the 20th century, then Abraham Benjamin de Villiers took an early lead in the 21st.

There’s a touch of ambiguity about ABdV’s retirement video. The main points are that he’s tired, he has given up international cricket, and that he hopes to be picked for the Titans in the next domestic season.

The global smash-and-grab market of T20/T10/100 doesn’t get a mention at all. A door deliberately left open?

At 34, with an intense fourteen years of international and franchise cricket behind him, it is quite understandable that he has made enough money and achieved everything he can out of the game.

Well, almost everything. If he has given up on international cricket a year before one more shot at winning a World Cup for the Proteas, then he really must be tired.

When AB de Villiers was caught behind by Tim Paine off Pat Cummins on April 1 in that surreal Fourth Test at The Wanderers, he had scored 8765 runs in 114 Tests, 9577 in 228 ODIs, 1672 in 78 T20Is. In both Test and one-day genres his batting average topped 50.

De Villiers scored a Test 278 not out against Pakistan at Abu Dhabi in 2010, Against the West Indies at Johannesburg in 2015 he reached his ODI hundred in 31 deliveries before falling on his 44th ball of the innings for 149.

One innings above all from de Villiers that was a personal privilege for me to witness came at the SCG just six weeks after that Johannesburg massacre, during the 2015 World Cup.

February 27 2015, again playing the West Indies. South Africa was travelling well at 149 for 3 when Hashim Amla was dismissed in the 30th over. De Villiers came to the crease and what transpired between the 30th and 50th overs was probably as brutal as any innings the Sydney Cricket Ground has ever witnessed.

First fifty from 31 deliveries, second fifty from 22, third fifty from 12, AB produced a totally kaleidoscopic display of batting, being particularly devastating on Jason Holder who had done much to pin down the early batsmen. De Villiers finished with 162 not out from 66 balls, seventeen fours and eight sixes. The entire West Indian eleven responded with 151 runs and it was an early night.

A batsman deservedly among South Africa’s all-time greats but also an accomplished wicketkeeper and the most athletic of fielders.  Whether he plays in the IPL again is a question teasing us all right now, but this catch for Royal Challengers Bangalore just last week – which brought forth the “Spiderman” tag yet again – is one of many moments to cherish.

Best wishes and good luck @ABdeVilliers17.

 

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