ABDe Deconstructes 'a few' Batting Metrics

With a blend of devilish audacity, freakish bravado and outrageous imagination, De villiers has deconstructed a few metrics of batting.

Published: 27th October 2015 06:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th October 2015 06:39 AM   |  A+A-

CHENNAI: Sometime during their reintegration into the cricket fold was pasted the stereotype of South African batsmen as dour, at times turgid, accumulators. Perhaps it accrued from hasty initial impressions, when their batsmanship was embodied, and emboldened, by the likes of Kepler Wessels and Kirsten half-brothers.

abd.jpgThe stereotype, as stereotypes tend to, stuck on like an adhesive, despite the Proteas producing batsmen of such varied dimensions and methods as Darryl Cullinan, Herschelle Gibbs, Hansie Cronje and Lance Klusener. Even the classically divine Jacques Kallis couldn’t escape the typecasting, though he was as versatile a run machine as any this century has cast its eyes on.

BLEE.JPGThen came AB de Villiers, the iconoclast, the conjurer who breaks every mould we try to squeeze him into, other than that of a certified legend. He not just busted the misplaced South African stereotype, but deconstructed a few metrics of batting as well, with a blend of devilish audacity, freakish bravado and outrageous imagination. But the tenets of his batting are essentially those old-world virtues of simple technique, nimble footwork, soft hands, immaculate balance, unreal hand-eye coordination and that rare gift of judging the bowlers length a micro second ahead of most batsmen. Only that seldom do sporting gods bestow such virtues on a single batsman in such heavy doses or frame that fearful symmetry.

BE.JPGThe cornerstone of his batting is the still head. “He focusses a lot on keeping his head still even when he’s on the move. Regardless of wh­e­ther he is jumping across the stumps to prepare for a scoop or stepping down the pitch to take on the bowler, his head is wonderfully still. His body moves but not his head. It allows him to follow the trajectory of the ball till the last possible moment, and that enables the playing of defensive and attacking shots,” said Aakash Chopra.

It’s not that he doesn’t premeditate, but even he does, his body remains static. So even if the ball is pitched marginally outside the off-stump, his balance is such that he can sway his body and still scoop the ball over long leg to execute the lap shot, an AB contribution to cricket’s diction. Also, he seldom takes the eye off the ball, which allows him to make last-minute adjustments. And bowlers, more often than not, commit the basic folly of following him, which he wants them to.

His balance is the envy of most batsmen around. “I think his balance is one thing that allows him to be as strong as he is all around the wicket. So, if I could steal one thing from him, it would be his balance while batting,” Brendon McCullum, himself more than acquainted with the dynamics of field manipulation, reckoned.

But what makes him even more superhuman is his faculty to peel off this skin and seamlessly sequester into a shell when the conditions demand. A case in point is his eight-and-a-half hour marathon in Leeds (2008), on a lively surface where he denied a probing English attack. Prior to him none had even crossed 45 in that match.

His glittering numbers across formats fully justify his versatility, and those runs have come all around the globe on a variety of challenging strips and situations.

It’s as though De Villiers, like Obelix, fell into druid’s cauldron of magic potion. A consummate athlete, he was excellent in every sport he dabbled at as a restless youngster growing up in Pretoria—he captained South Africa’s junior rugby team, played junior tennis for his country, won a national badminton title, held junior national record in 100 metres and had a scratch handicap at golf. He is a talented guitarist as well, leading the team sing-song to celebrate a victory.

Cricket in that sense is fortunate that De Villiers channelled all his attention to this sport, expanding the imagined boundaries of a batsman’s mindset. The bowlers, though, would vociferously object.


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