AB, one of cricket’s greats

“A true batsman should in most of his strokes tell the truth about himself.”

When Sir Neville Cardus uttered this phrase he could not have been speaking about AB de Villiers given that the right-hander was born a little less than a decade after the celebrated cricket writer and commentator had died.

But it is arguably the best way to describe the way that De Villiers has played his cricket up until this point and it still rings true, even now as he prepares to play his 100th Test on Saturday.

The milestone won’t happen at a stadium in South Africa. Not in Centurion where he is contracted to the Titans, or the Wanderers where he has delighted crowds with his wizardry. It won’t be at the picturesque Newlands either.

Instead it will be played in Bangalore. A place that is something of a second home given his role with the Royal Challengers in the Indian Premier League and the fact that the batsman is celebrated as something of a demigod in a place where cricket is a religion.

That the chants of “Sachin, Sachin” that used to echo around stadia whenever Indian great Sachin Tendulkar used to bat have now been replaced by ones of “ABD, ABD” says it all really.

By reaching the magic three figure appearance mark he will become the seventh South African cricketer to do so, joining Graeme Smith (116), Jacques Kallis (165), Shaun Pollock (108), Makhaya Ntini (101), Gary Kirsten (101) and Mark Boucher (146).

Had he not missed the tour of Bangladesh in August due to paternity leave he would be playing in his 100th consecutive Test but his 98 successive matches was a new world record.

Even in failure the right-hander has broken a record given that it took 78 innings for him to register a first Test duck.

His ability to turn a match on its head is well known whether it’s a quick fire knock in a T20 game, an absolute annihilation in a one day fixture – a format where he seems to express himself the most – or when grinding it out in Test matches his ability has not gone unnoticed.

The South African bowlers will tell you that they’re thankful the only time they oppose De Villiers is in the nets or IPL games.

“It’s like watching the Matrix movie. There’s Neo right there. He doesn’t understand how good he is,” Dale Steyn said earlier this year while Hashim Amla drew a comparison to another one of the game’s greats.

“You would like to score runs every game but I don’t think that’s possible unless you are Don Bradman or AB de Villiers,” he said of his teammate who averages 51.92 in the long format.

There were no media obligations or practice sessions planned given the Diwali celebrations on Wednesday but perhaps the break gave the 31-year-old a chance to reflect just how much he has lit up the game of cricket.

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