We all have been there. Standing in front of the mirror, aping our heroes’s batting stance and shots or a bowler’s leap and release action. The result wouldn’t mirror the original for most of us but a couple of kids have not only replicated but even gone all the way to represent their countries. As that adage goes, fake it till you make it. When the original plays, the experts coo about how his uniqueness can’t be copied, that it’s a natural action or a shot but these young kids weren’t listening to them.
Unsurprisingly, AB de Villiers is a model to imitate. There is an uncanny similarity in how Dewald Brevis plays his shots. Just like his childhood hero, Brevis can play lap shot, scoop, switch hit, ramp, reverse sweep. Brevis is leading the run-scorers charts in the U-19 world cup with 362 runs in four games at 90.50 and a strike rate of 86.39.
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Forget the batting style, the youngster even walks and stands like his idol, went to the same high school and even had the same coach Deon Botes. During South Africa’s first match against India, the young batter scored a fine 65, and when he completed his half-century, his team-mates popped up a placard that read: ’BABY AB!!!’
In a free-wheeling chat with The Indian Express, Brevis talked about his obsession with the real AB.
“AB is my childhood hero. I grew up close to SuperSport Park. I often watched him play from the grass embankment at SuperSport Park. And he is my mentor too,” said Brevis. “My cricket and batting style developed naturally. I never had formal coaching for the first couple of years. I always watched AB playing on TV. It is a massive honour to be compared with AB, but I still have a lot to learn.”
South Africa’s Dewald Brevis has broken Shikhar Dhawan’s record of most runs in one edition of U19 CWC with a 138 against Bangladesh on Friday. Brevis finishes the tournament with 506 runs. Dhawan scored 505 in the 2004 edition.
Praise from idol
De Villiers, too, is a big fan of Brevis. “I know Dewald very well. I have been his mentor for about two years now and helped him with his batting and his attitude towards cricket,” De Villiers told Netwerk24 recently. “We have done quite a few sessions in the indoor nets together. I always invited him for one-on-one sessions when I was preparing for the Indian Premier League, then I threw balls at him, and he at me.
“I have to say, I did not expect much until I saw him bat for the first time, then I was quite surprised by the amount of potential he has,” said De Villiers. “There are definitely similarities in style, the way he handles the bowlers and his attacking attitude. He still has a long way to go to work out his style and not lose his wicket softly.”
The youngster says he is always in touch with AB as he closely monitors his game. “I am in regular touch with AB. His advice is to keep it simple, stay with the basics and play my natural game,” said Brevis. ““I am good at adjusting to a game situation. My dream is to play all three formats of cricket, and want to prove myself in 4-day cricket and later on in Test cricket.”
Mimicking Shane Warne
Brevis hasn’t stopped just with AB. For his legspin, he chose Shane Warne. “My brother and I were watching a Test match, and for the first time, I saw Shane Warne’s bowling. I started copying him in my backyards, and it has stuck with me since then,” he said. “Later, when I joined Affies, Johan Rudolph (father of Jacques Rudolph) worked on my leg-spin. He played a massive role in developing my leg-spin,” he added.
Brevis is a more than handy leg spinner as he has snared four wickets in three matches so far.
On coach Deon Botes
Brevis has honed his cricketing skills at Afrikaans Hoer Seunskool, more popularly known as Affies. Deon Botes, an Economics professor and now Director of Sport at the school, has played a massive role in the development of several South African cricketers, including the likes of AB de Villers and Faf du Plessis.
“I first met with Botes during a U-14 cricket match between Saints and Affies in 2015. Wian Moulder was playing in that game, and I had a casual chat with Botes about leg-spin. He gave me a few tips, and it made a big difference as I picked eight wickets for 10 in 4 overs against Garsfontein Primary School. I made up my mind and chose Affies as my high school.
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“Botes is a legend in school cricket in South Africa. It was a privilege to be mentored by him for the past six years. I spent many hours chatting about cricket in his office instead of sitting in the classroom,” said the 18-year-old.
Brevis has grown up in a cricket crazy family, and his elder brother Reinardt is his big inspiration.
“My first word was ‘ball.’ You can say I was born with a bat and a ball in my hand, and I was lucky to have a brother Reinardt, who was equally passionate about cricket. He always wanted to bowl, and I always wanted to bat. It was a dream situation with lots of fights in the backyard, he was trying to take my head off, and I was trying to hit him for a six,” recollected Brevis.
“My brother was a fantastic fast bowler throughout his school career. His action was often compared to Mike Proctor. Unfortunately, he suffered back injuries and was forced to stop. He is currently studying law at Potchefstroom University and is an assistant cricket coach at Mooiriver primary school,” he said.
With de Villiers as his hero and his eagerness to pick Virat Kohli’s brain to perfect his cover drive, it is pretty obvious which team Brevis supports in the IPL.
“I support RCB because AB and Virat play there,” he said. “In our household, IPL is a huge thing; we hardly miss any games. The biggest conflict is between my brother and me; he is a huge MS Dhoni fan and is a CSK supporter through and through,” said Brevis. “Hopefully, one day, I will be able to play in the IPL,” he signed off.
Matheesha Pathirana (Sri Lanka)
The 19-year-old Matheesha Pathirana is called ‘Junior Lasith Malinga’ in the Sri Lanka cricketing circuit because of his slingy side-on action. Since 2020, the teenager has been a part of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the Indian Premier League as a reserve player.This is Pathirana’s second U-19 World Cup and has snared 7 wickets in the four matches. Pathirana comes from Trinity College of Kandy whose alumni includes Kumar Sangakkara.
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