It is rare in India to see a milestone of an opposition cricketer being celebrated the way it is being done in Abraham Benjamin de Villiers’ case. But then such is the aura of the man who has entertained spectators all over the world with his batting deeds. Abraham and Benjamin are two names with historical importance. Well De Villiers will certainly occupy a permanent place whenever the history of the modern-day game will be written.
It has been approximately a couple of years since those three batting legends – Sachin Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis and Ricky Ponting decided to call it a day. And since then the batting world has been ABD’s – he has made it his own. Bowlers, who breathed a sigh of relief after the retirement of the three maestros, have once more started having sleepless nights the moment a South Africa series crops up.
ABD, as some of his South African teammates call him has already entered the ‘legendary’ segment because of his proficiency in all formats of the game and his successes both at home and away. Growing up on the hard and bouncy wickets of South Africa – De Villiers has wonderfully adjusted to the low, slow turners of the sub-
continent. His positive and aggressive approach to the game has thrilled spectators worldwide, even if they are supporters of the opposition – such has been the effect of the man.
De Villiers will be the 63rd cricketer to have played 100 Tests, the sixth South African to do so after Kallis (166), Mark Boucher (147), Graeme Smith (117), Shaun Pollock (108) and Gary Kirtsen (101). His Test average of 51.92 is only second to Kallis, which shows how good a batsman he has been. Any batsman possessing an average of 40-plus is considered a very good Test man. So the 50-plus average will certainly propel, the South African to that elite bracket of ‘greatness’.
That eminent batsman-turned-commentator Geoffrey Boycott once stated that ‘humbleness’ is the first sign of being great. Even though, some of the greatest batters of the world have not been all that humble… De Villiers is an exception to the rule. He is always ready to share his knowledge of the game and always has a smile ready for a journalist with whom he is acquainted. Go to him for an interview, and he will be the first to seek knowledge about ‘how your family is’. It is this quality that makes him so special and prevents the harshest of critics from writing a word or two against him.
In modern-day sportsmanship it is rare for a player of any discipline to earn respect and affection from the opposition captain. But De Villiers does just that and that is where he falls into that category of Tendulkar, Kallis or Ponting. “He is one of the best batsman in the world and a very good human being,” Indian Test captain, Virat Kohli stated Friday. Even the most aggressive and brash Australians have always had good words for De Villiers – may be because they know if they irk the man too much, his blade will do the talking.
A cricketer and a gentleman – is a rare breed in the modern cricket parlance. Sunil Gavaskar once coined that famous statement – ‘FORM is temporary, CLASS is permanent’. Even if De Villiers fails to get going in his 100th Test – there cannot be any doubt that he is and will always be a batsman with ‘CLASS’ written all over him. They rarely do make such batters these days. Cricket may be an institution by itself, but then De Villiers is definitely the modern-day ‘Kohinoor’ of the game.