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In a shocking announcement, talismanic batsman AB De Villers dropped a bombshell as he announced retirement from all the formats with an immediate effect.
His words – “I have decided to retire from all international cricket with immediate effect. After 114 Test matches, 228 ODIs and 78 T20 Internationals, it is time for others to take over,” – came as a shocker to everyone around the world as much as to anyone who had closely followed him in last month or so.
He scored 480 runs in 12 matches at a strike rate of 175 in this year’s IPL, taking his team to victory on numerous occasion singlehandedly.
After hiatus from Test team for over a year, de Villiers expressed his desire to play all formats of the game. And didn’t he come back with a bang as he notched up record 427 runs against the visiting Australia at 71.17. He helped in winning the series for South Africa for the first time since they were readmitted, and assisted in a convincing series win against India where he scored 211 runs.
To highlight his importance, take two of his innings. De Villiers showed a different class with his unbeaten 126 in Port Elizabeth. While all his other teammates struggled to score at a good clip, de Villiers collected runs with ease, managing a strike rate of 86.30 while the rest of South Africa’s top eight combined to score at 38.22.
They scored 172 runs off 450 balls as his team won the second Test and the momentum snowballed to give the series win.
In the first match against India, seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar (4-87) tore through the top order reducing South Africa to 12-3. ABD and captain Faf Du Plessis combined in a counterattacking 114-run partnerships.
So severe was ABD on Kumar that he reached his 50 off 55 deliveries as the Proteas posted a fighting total and India succumbed to the pressure of the scoreboard. De Villers put all the Indian bowlers offline by the counterpunch on a track which had a lot in it for bowlers.
That was his second coming, and he showed his class in the series Proteas won.
If there is a perception that his game had only one mode, then have a look at his 33 off 220 deliveries against Kangaroos at Adelaide or 43 of 297 balls against India at Delhi.
He held the record for highest Test score by a South African batsman 278* before Hashim Amla scored 311*.
In matches won, de Villiers averages 65.93, scoring 15 of his 22 centuries in South African victories. Of his 21 Test centuries, nine have been more than 150 which showed he could not just get hundreds but kick on as well. It should come as no surprise that South Africa’s most successful era in Tests as No.1 ranked team coincided with De Villers best playing days in the cricketing field.
In ODI he will be forever be remembered as a man who holds the record for fastest 50, 100 and 150 and captaining South Africa to clear the hurdle of going past the knockouts. The team got an ovation when they returned home. His 119 off 61 balls against India in a must-win ODI in Mumbai in 2015 gave South Africa its first series win over India.
It was AB’s swashbuckling batting style and razor-sharp fielding at point or at even deep at the boundary which left everyone in awe. Just last week, he would take the one handed flying catch to dismiss Alex Hales at the boundary line in the IPL.
At 34 and still batting at his peak, not many would say he was past his prime. Chris Rogers started his Test career at 35 and would go on to retire among the top 10 Test batsman as per ICC.
After his emotional outburst post-loss to New Zealand in CWC 2015, all of the cricketing fans wanted to him to retire with ICC trophy which would elude him for his entire cricketing career but not to be in the end.
For all his freakish strokeplay and entertainment in the field throughout the last decade, inarguably the most loved cricketer across the globe leaves all his fans teary-eyed.