Ones to Watch at the World Cup: No.5 – AB de Villiers

On the 18th January 2015, Abraham Benjamin de Villers broke the world record for the fastest ODI century. In fact, he didn’t just break the record, he broke it, stamped on it, set fire to it and laughed in its face. His 31-ball hundred was a moment where the boundaries of the sport were redefined. As I argued on this blog a few weeks ago, his innings may be a portent of more ludicrous innings to come.

When I was thinking of which 10 players to select for my ones to watch at the World Cup, one name was at the top of my list. De Villiers has been head and shoulders above the rest in the past 12 months; all the signs point to him having a colossal World Cup.

In the past year, De Villiers has plundered 1128 ODI runs from just 20 innings, at the scarcely believable average of 75.20. His overall average of 52 is not to be sniffed at either, but it is during the last 12 months that he has moved to a level all of his own. In 3 knocks during the recently concluded ODI series at home to the West Indies, he managed to make 249 runs at a strike rate of 152. He is without doubt, the leading ODI batsman in the world. The official ODI rankings confirm this and have him sat pretty atop the charts; some distance ahead of his teammate Hashim Amla.

De Villiers world cup record is pretty good too, having passed fifty 7 times in 15 innings. His side will certainly need him to be at his world beating best during the next six weeks. The ‘c’ word is often bandied about when it comes to South Africa and global events; often unjustifiably in my opinion. They have previously been the victims of circumstance rather than any mental deficiency. However, if the class of 2015 fail to make it to at least the semi-final stage, then I’ll be joining that merry band of South Africa bashers.

This side is simply too good to pass up the opportunity of a World Cup trophy. Alongside De Villiers, they also have Amla, Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel in the peak of their careers. Add the talented starlet Quinton De Kock into the mix and the Proteas have no excuse for not seriously challenging in Australia and New Zealand. De Villiers really must be the fulcrum around which South Africa build their World Cup dreams. In the past, players have defined tournaments, for example Imran Khan in 1992 and Sanath Jayasuriya in 1996, but neither man won the World Cup single-handedly. AB de Villiers is that good, he could win the cup on his won. Of course it will help if he can have some support, and with the South African line-up he is well placed to receive it.

In his recent interview with the excellent Jarrod Kimber, Ricky Ponting states that ‘modern batting’ is about scoring 360 degrees’. In which case, AB de Villiers is the embodiment of modern batting. His ability to strike the ball with such ferocity in unconventional places is a major part of his batting strategy. In recent months he has reached a level of batting nirvana I have never before witnessed. He is playing with such confidence that he is not worrying about who is bowling or where they’re bowling it. He is so sure of his abilities that every ball is a possible boundary.

A profile of de Villiers by Telford Vice last week summed up the man perfectly. I got the impression that de Villiers is a much more thoughtful man than his blitzkrieg batting style suggests. A quality that will stand him in good stead as the World Cup circus fires into action come the knockout stages.

AB is one of those sickeningly good natural sportsmen. This is just a small list of some of his sporting achievements outside of cricket…

Represented SA at junior level hockey

Represented SA at junior level football

Represented SA at junior level rugby

Holds 6 school swimming records

Member of the junior Davis Cup side

Under-19 national Badminton Champion

Scratch golfer

Sickening, absolutely sickening…..

It seems that the only accolade that’s escape de Villiers is the World Cup. I doubt he will ever be part of a stronger SA side, and he needs to make this tournament count. If he continues his natural game and can carry even a fraction of his current form into the World Cup, he may have to make room in his burgeoning trophy cabinet.

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