First, kudos to the BCCI for allotting this game to Bangalore. They did it precisely because of AB de Villiers, who would be playing his 100th Test tomorrow. Bangalore is AB’s ‘second home’, thanks to his RCB connection in the IPL. The champion deserved the favour.
AB didn’t have a head start to his Test career. In fact, he was pretty average, scoring 2,073 runs at 36.36 in 33 Tests between 2004 and 2007. He had only three centuries to his credit. Things started to change from 2008 onwards, as he worked hard to tighten his defence. “I learnt my defensive game in 2008. That was new to me. Before that I played for four and a half, five years without knowing exactly what was going on,” he revealed in an interview with Cricinfo. It was Mark Boucher who spotted the weakness and passed on a few suggestions to his team mate. Improvement ensued. In the next eight years, AB has played 66 Tests, making 5,612 runs (18 hundreds) at 61.67. The innings at Motera in 2008 was the beginning of something special, when he scored 217 not out, coming at No. 6. That was his stepping stones to greatness.
Now the overall figures look very commendable – 99 Tests, 7, 685 runs at 51.92 and 21 hundreds. But AB is a lot more than just the arid numbers. He’s a batting revolutionary who has redefined the art.
His ability to bat 360 degrees, the improvisations he shows on the field, has taken his batsmanship to a different level. But it’s his ability to adapt to situations that stands out. Someone who holds the world record for fastest ODI hundred (31 balls) had once scored 33 off 220 deliveries to save a Test at Adelaide Oval. Superstars usually struggle to eschew their ego. AB is refreshingly different. You won’t get a better team player than the South African master.
There are few better sights in world cricket than AB going full throttle. But the budding cricketers must watch it with caution. There’s a simple warning – never try to emulate him, ever. It’s his genius that allows him to slog sweep a fast bowler over deep-square or reverse lap a 90mph delivery over third man. He’s special; ahead of his time and far, far ahead of the lesser mortals. Watching AB in the nets, however, is an education. His sessions are short and sharp. He barely tries his improvisations during practice, preferring to play straight instead. And he trains with full intensity.
AB went to the first Test on the heels of four hundreds (ODIs and tour game included) in the ongoing tour. He scored 63 in the first innings at Mohali but didn’t look comfortable. It’s very important from the tourists’ point of view that he regains his attacking mojo in Bangalore. Unlike the first Test, the Chinnaswamy pitch is not going to be a rank turner. So this is South Africa’s best chance to bounce back. They will largely depend on their talisman, especially in Dale Steyn’s absence.