He’s been described as a freak. Superhuman. A genius.
I remember the first time I ever saw AB de Villiers in the flesh. There was not a cricket bat in sight. Instead he was marshalling the Affies backline from the flyhallf position during the inaugural Rugby & Hockey Festival held at my alma mater, King Edward VII School.
I was in my first year of high school, AB in his last and little did those watching one of the schoolboy rugby powerhouses realise that there was greatness in their midsts.
Fast forward a decade and a bit alter and De Villiers has now reached a milestone that only six South Africans have managed before him. That magical 100 Test match appearance mark.
And in typical AB fashion he’s downplayed it slightly, focusing rather on helping the team draw level in the series rather than be caught in up the celebrations of his achievement. It’s just who he is.
This is a man who walked into the press conference after putting the West Indies to the sword earlier this year in a one day game at the Wanderers and stated that he hadn’t quite hit the ball as well as he would have liked. He’d blasted 149 runs off 44 balls.
It’s just who he is. The team has always come first, the man second.
It’s evident in his captaincy of the one day setup. Whenever he walks into a press conference after a loss you can see that it hurts. Perhaps he takes it that bit harder than some. But it is always the team, there are never fingers pointed and blame apportioned.
And how many times has he been the saviour? The man relied upon to steady the ship. Even that pressure has not bothered him. It’s for the team.
He’s been a loyal servant to South African cricket, helping them to numerous series wins and a rise to the top of the official Test rankings. In a cruel way, cricket has a knack of doing this, he hasn’t been able to lift a World Cup trophy. The only item missing from his C.V really.
His wicket is one of the prized scalps in international cricket. There have been jokes in the press box that perhaps some teams would rather not take wickets than allow De Villiers time at the crease.
Imagine as bowler you’ve worked hard to get rid of the Proteas openers, set your team up nicely and perhaps taken the wicket of Hashim Amla or Faf du Plessis and in walks De Villiers? When he’s out teams breathe a sigh of relief.
This weekend De Villiers will once again pull the jersey over his head, pad up and do battle for his country. Hopefully he’ll be able to raise his bat in this memorable encounter but it is also fitting that South Africans raise a glass for one of the greatest cricketers they’re likely to see.