Cricket fans in the 1990s grew up with the never-ending comparison between Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara. As much as 20 years later, that debate has shifted to Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. Co-incidentally, once again the battle is between two batting wizards who show their magic with a MRF wand in their hands.
For a brief period, AB de Villiers was unchallenged as the best batsman to have made his debut in the 21st century. When Virat Kohli was trying to replicate his ODI success against the red cherry, AB de Villiers was scoring runs at ease across all formats of the game.
And not only in all formats, but in every part of the ground, as he gained the reputation of being capable to hit the ball in all corners and earned the tag of 'Mr.360°'.
But what are those things that make AB de Villiers one of the most pleasing cricketers on the eyes? Well, we can always collect some random facts, but nothing can be better than reading the autobiography of a particular personality to know their story, written in their own words.
AB de Villiers did a big favor for his fans, as he published his autobiography "AB: The Autobiography" in 2016.
One can learn a lot about AB de Villiers' nature by reading the book, as he has written it just like the way he plays his cricket, with brutal honesty.
Here are 11 inspiring anecdotes from the life of (A)bsolutely (B)rilliant de Villiers:
1. Clarification of the myths about his achievements in other sports
One of the very first things De Villiers clarified in his autobiography was the hype and myths about his achievements and milestones in other sports, something that he has never achieved.
Without mincing his words, De Villiers has called his accolades of leading South Africa’s junior rugby side, featuring for their junior hockey, football, badminton, tennis sides and holding various swimming and athletic records as nothing more than internet myths. His national medal for the science project, that he received from Nelson Mandela, was also a case of pure imagination.
The only time he has played football was during the practice sessions for the Proteas and has never even come close to representing the nation in any other sport. Though he was the No.1 ranked tennis player in the country at his age level, and the sport he first wanted to build a career in was actually rugby; he never got a chance to represent South Africa in those sports at any level.
2. From being asked to remove his Jonty cap to being one of the best fielders ever
AB de Villiers describes a Jonty Rhodes’ cap his father bought for him as his most prized possession as an 11-year old. Playing some backyard cricket with his bullying big brothers and their friends, AB was told to remove the cap, as he was not deemed worthy of it after he spilled a catch.
Those were the days when ABD, the youngest child in his family was made to field and carry drinks the whole day, only with the promise of a chance to bat at the end of the day’s play.
In fact, his eldest brother’s friend took the cap off his head and crushed it on the ground. Little did his brothers knew that their youngest sibling will turn out to be one of the best fielders in world cricket and will even make the great Jonty Rhodes proud.
3. Toughest bowler he has faced
Almost every batsman who stretches the imagination of cricket fans gets asked about the toughest bowler he has ever faced. AB de Villiers falls in the same category and has been asked the same question umpteenth times.
He has always answered Mohammad Asif’s swing as the toughest to counter, but the real answer is surprisingly a bowler who has never played international cricket.
Gerrit Deist, a friend of ABD’s eldest brother was the same guy who removed the Jonty cap off ABD’s head. De Villiers had burst into tears after that incident, but carried on fielding for the rest of the day.
When he got his chance to bat at the end of the day, 22-year old Deist took a long run up and bowled with full intensity at ABD, without any compassion for the 11 year old boy. However, the boy played out of his skin.
ABD fought back, took some blows on his body from Deist's fiery short balls, all the while batting with a bat as big as him; but kept on playing until their mother had to intervene and call the day off.
AB de Villiers still reckons Deist's spell to him in their backyard, as the toughest spell he has ever faced, but refrains from taking his name in the media in order to avoid a lengthy explanation.
4. From carrying his senior’s bag to opening with him
At AB de Villiers’ school, the Affies; there was a regulation where each newbie would be placed under a senior who will have to be addressed as ‘Master’ by the youngster and the youngster will also have to help the senior with his academics like writing his projects and carrying his bag around.
AB de Villiers did the same for Jacques Rudolph, who was three years senior to him and ABD helped Rudolph carrying his cricket bag around for him. Rudolph later went onto score a double hundred on his Test debut for South Africa.
Just two years after his finishing his school, AB de Villiers was fast-tracked into his domestic side, the Titans; where he opened the innings with Jacques Rudolph and scored a hundred on his debut.
He also had a big partnership with Martin van Jaarsveld in that game, with whom he used to play backyard cricket with his brothers’ friends.
5. When he introduced himself to his teammate in the middle of the pitch
As a 20-year old, AB de Villiers got an offer to play club cricket in Northern Ireland. By the time he reached Belfast, the game had already begun and he was rushed to the ground from the airport by his team manager, who asked De Villiers to change into his cricket gear and get ready to bat at the fall of the next wicket.
It was all pretty baffling for AB de Villiers who did not get any time to breath, despite landing in a foreign country barely hours ago. Two hours after arriving in Ireland for the first time, he went into bat and introduced himself to his batting partner Barry Cooper, in middle of the game, on the pitch.
He went on to score an eye-catching 82 from 85 balls in that innings and Barry was ABD’s landlord during his stay in Northern Ireland.
6. When he proved his coach wrong
Batting for South Africa A in New Zealand, AB de Villiers scored a breezy 30 before edging Chris Martin to the wicket-keeper. This made his then coach Ray Jennings livid and he called a team meeting next morning only to tell ABD:
“AB de Villiers, you will never play in a team coached by me again. Who the hell do you think you are? You don’t respect the game. I promise you won’t play in my team again.”
AB de Villiers held himself back from bursting into tears, as his teammates walked to him and consoled him before going into the field.
Towards the end of that year, AB de Villiers made his Test debut for South Africa who had Ray Jennings as their head coach.
Seven years later, he was picked up by the Royal Challengers Bangalore to play in the IPL, which was again under the mentorship of Ray Jennings.
7. Could not defend the ball
For a large part in his career in early days, AB de Villiers had chinks in his defensive technique. He carried the reputation of a hugely talented batsman with a plethora of shots in his armory without any proper defense. He survived almost 3 years in international cricket with that tag before realizing he had to do something about it.
After a poor tri-series against India and the host nation Ireland, De Villiers talked to Jacques Kallis about his batting technique, and Kallis worked day in and day out with ABD, throwing balls at him in the nets for the next few days, helping his teammate develop a better defensive technique.
As a result of this, South Africa’s next series saw a more composed AB de Villiers who scored 63, 0* and 107 in a 3-0 victory over Zimbabwe. AB de Villiers largely credits Jacques Kallis for helping him rebuild his career.
8. When he scared the hell out of his captain, Graeme Smith
De Villiers might have had some miserable time at the start of his career, but he also had his share of fun. In one such prank, he made his skipper Graeme Smith believe that there was a ghost in his room.
To Smith’s misfortune, ABD’s room was right next to his suite in the hotel during the Kanpur Test in 2008. De Villiers climbed out of his window one night and found his way into Smith’s suite through a narrow ledge.
Once in the room, De Villiers tilted the pictures on the wall, turned on the TV in the living room of Smith's suite playing with the volume and hid behind the curtains before Smith walked in. He then climbed back to his room after a few minutes, coming back to repeat the process several times that night.
At the breakfast table next morning, Smith explained the strange phenomenon to all of his teammates, as to how he was being terrorized by a ghost in his room, all the while describing the odd events with the TV and the pictures on the wall.
ABD played the prank a few more times during their stay, before finally revealing himself as the ghost, much to Smith’s relief.
9. When he took a mid-innings toilet break
Cricket fans bombarded the internet with memes when Matt Renshaw went off the ground while batting ‘’retired ill’’ to use the toilet recently in a Test against India.
Very few know that AB de Villiers also suffered a similar fate and that the most embarrassing incident of his career happened when he was on his way to his 10th Test ton.
ABD was nearing his century during the second Test against West Indies in 2010, when he started feeling something funny happening in his stomach. The Proteas batsman was aware that he was running out of time and batting through the discomfort, he scored a boundary and a six in the next two balls and celebrated his 10th Test hundred with an aching and upset stomach.
Two defensive pushes later, he just ran off the pitch informing the umpires that he just cannot hold it any longer and needs to go back in the pavilion before it gets too late.
The umpires had no option, but to opt for an extended drink break as a result. As bizarre as it may sound, the game was actually stopped for 5-10 minutes, thanks to De Villiers' toilet break and everyone in the ground was aware of his situation.
Though, AB was pleased after relieving himself, he was amusingly greeted by his teammates throwing a bunch of toilet paper rolls at him, as he emerged victorious from the loo.
10. When he became the victim of the spirit of the game
In December 2011, ABD was robbed of a Test hundred at his home ground in Centurion. The South African looked all set for another hundred, as he was batting on 99.
De Villiers cut a wide delivery to point only to see the ball end in Dimuth Karunaratne’s hands. However, no one was sure whether the catch was clean or not.
The umpires himself asked De Villiers if he wanted to review the catch, but he chose to trust the fielder and walked off, one run short of his hundred.
He had a brief chat with Karunaratne, before deciding to trust his words and walked off the pitch, probably cursing himself for missing the chance of scoring a hundred.
However, the replays confirmed that the ball had touched the ground before resting in the fielder’s hands.
“So much for the spirit of the game”, whispered ABD to himself.
11. His close camaraderie with Virat Kohli
AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli have formed one of the most destructive batting duos in the IPL for Royal Challengers Bangalore. Watching them bat together is a fantasy come true for most of the cricket fans and the worst nightmare for any bowler.
But all good things have to come to an end one day, and we all know that both AB and Virat will hang their boots in future.
One fine morning while sharing the breakfast with Virat Kohli, AB de asked him:
“How long do you think you’re going to keep playing?”
Virat Kohli replied, “I am going to play forever.”
Sachin Tendulkar’s records seem to be in real danger if Virat is really serious about his answer.