For amateurs, he might be akin to a martial arts expert. For professionals, he might be an unorthodox sweeper. But for most cricket fans he is the complete dictionary of cricket. Is there any shot in the coaching manual that AB de Villiers cannot play? Or rather, how many shots from the de Villiers batting handbook are mentioned in the cricket coaching manual?
Abraham Benjamin de Villiers is the master of batting, an epitome of improvisation and if you have never thought of sweeping a fast bowler for a six, ABD's manual is the perfect read for you. He is like a dancer, a cricketer who performs the salsa with his bat. He taps his feet, he taps the ball with his bat and he makes sure that it races to the boundary every time. You need to have quick feet to learn his moves and, more than that, you have to let go of the fear of losing your wicket.
His reputation for destroying bowlers was never under question and last week he showed another glimpse of his ability to cause carnage at Johannesburg, with the West Indies being at the receiving end, scoring the fastest one-day international hundred off just 31 balls. He clobbered 16 sixes en-route to 149 in just 44 deliveries, leaving the Windies' bowlers helpless.
The most interesting part of his batting is his unconventional style. He shuffles across, performs his jig on the crease, goes a foot outside off-stump, moves around and then slogs the ball over midwicket for a maximum. And these are not the only dancing moves he has. He goes down on his knees and scoops the length deliveries over the fine leg and, last but not the least, his switch hits towards the off-side region, where he gets down again and paddles the reverse sweep.
He can hit at every corner of the ground
ABD is a gift. His excellent hand, eye and body coordination a marvel. His uncanny style of play can blow the mind of any opponent. He can shift from being quiet and relaxed to focused and fierce in an instant. Even when some traditional, classy strokes don't work, his extraordinary improvisation and execution do. Many a time he has played an anchor role for his team. Whenever he's been required he has stood up, be it digging deep and blunting the Australian attack with his 33 off 220 balls in a test match or dismantling the opposition with a 31-ball century.
Apart from literally batting away his opponents, ABD is a veritable acrobat on the field in his capacity as a wicket-keeper. The nimble-footed South African leaps like a giant fish while plucking anything coming at him off the air. He pulls of screamers while donning the keeping gloves and dives like a scuba diver to save maximum runs on the field. And there is more. ABD has also tried his hand at bowling, delivering medium at a gentle pace, and has succeeded in picking up a couple of wickets against New Zealand.
ABD adjusts to the requirements of cricket's various formats as effortlessly as expected of someone of his ample abilities. He is a multi-talented cricketer who defines "style, versatility and flair." At 30, he has achieved many milestones and with good years still left in him, he will undoubtedly garner more accolades and discover more techniques embellished with his unconventional flamboyance.