It was a big-hitting session at the Barabati nets from AB de Villiers on Sunday. He was preparing for Monday’s second T20 international and concentrated on hitting straight. He was dispatching ‘em 80-90 metres with ridiculous ease, once even with a switch-hit. AB is now opening the innings for South Africa. He made 51 off 32 balls in Dharamsala to provide his team with an electric start as they chased 200 for victory.
AB is the best batsman in the world in this form of the game. He bats 360 degrees and when he gets going, he can give the best bowlers an inferiority complex. He, however, had opened only once in 59 T20 internationals prior to the series against Bangladesh in July this year. In fact, he had been reluctant to perform the role of an opener due to chronic back problems as he was keeping in the shortest format. Credit goes to South Africa T20 captain Faf du Plessis, who coaxed him to change his mind. With AB coming in the middle-order, the bowlers at least had the protection of extra men in the deep. They could also bowl with a softer ball. But now they no longer have that leeway. AB is batting in the power-play overs, when field restriction is on. It has made him even more dangerous.
The switch has been made with an eye on the World T20 that India will host in March next year. AB’s team-mate Farhaan Behardien confirmed it was going to be a “regular ploy” at least till the showpiece event. “AB has played for so many years in subcontinent conditions. He was mentioning that he has been on tour to India about 25 times. The first six overs in a Twenty20 game, when the ball comes on to the bat, our crucial. If we can pounce on the power-play, AB is that good a player that if he bats for 50 to 60 balls, he will end up with a hundred. We wanted to test it out before the World Cup (World T20) next year and see how he goes. Let’s hope it proves fruitful for us,” Behardien explained.
His comments were in conjunction with what Du Plessis had said earlier. “It’s important that we stick to what we want to achieve with our combinations. Putting AB at the top is a conscious change we have made leading up to the World T20. You want to give your most explosive and best player a crack at getting in early and scoring runs. It is something we will stick with even though the conditions here will probably suggest otherwise,” the T20 skipper had said during the Bangladesh tour. Every batsman, however, is a little vulnerable early into his innings and to square the series here in Cuttack, India have to get AB out early.
Meanwhile, Behardien said South Africa are very comfortable with three captains for three different formats.
“AB, Faf and Hash (Hashim Amla) command different kind of respect. It’s nice to have new and fresh ideas in all three formats. All three lead by example. AB’s on field performance, Faf speaks with a good command and Hash is calm and cool. He has a certain presence about himself. I think with different guys coming into different teams, it’s quite fresh to have that captain’s perspective for that particular series, especially in a long tour like this to India. For one guy to captain in all three formats becomes a bit tough. To go from press conferences to team selections and worry about your own performance. So it (split captaincy) takes away the pressure.”
Not music to dhoni’s ears
Cuttack: The DJ at the Barabati Stadium got his timing wrong. No sooner did MS Dhoni begin his stint at the nets, than the DJ pumped up the volume. An agitated India captain sent across the message to turn it off. An unmindful DJ continued to play the music. This, in turn, forced Dhoni to leave the nets. A source close to the team, however, played down the issue. “It’s a minor thing. The DJ was testing his speakers. Maybe he failed to understand the communication but he had eventually stopped. The team is not filing any complaint to the Orissa Cricket Association (OCA),” he said. Cuttack has warmed up to this T20 international; a must win game for India. More than 5,000 fans turned up to watch the two teams practise on Sunday. It’s a sell-out crowd expected to witness the contest.
“Cricket has always been a big craze in this part of the world, formats notwithstanding. So this is expected. Hope we will have a good game tomorrow,” OCA president Ranjib Biswal said. ENS