All eyes on AB de Villiers
Hobart- You know that you have become a class act when even your fiercest rivals splash your image on the back pages of their national newspapers and hail you as the best batsman at the World Cup.
That is where South Africa’s incredible skipper, AB de Villiers, found himself on March 3 after his demolition job destroyed the West Indies and made the world appreciate, once again, his magical qualities.
He was on the back page of The Herald-Sun, an Aussie newspaper that is unlikely to spend time worshiping heroes from elsewhere, at a time when they have a World Cup in their doorstep and a number of batsmen they believe will take them home.
After all, de Villiers doesn’t only represent SA but captains a team that the Aussies have always taken to be one of their biggest rivals, after England of course, when it comes to cricket.
But there comes a time when it’s difficult, even in the mist sprayed by the jealousy of rivalry, to ignore one precocious talent when it emerges on the scene.
And the superman, de Villiers, is making even his fiercest rivals to stand and take notice.
Just weeks after questions were asked about the Proteas’ pedigree to win this World Cup, after being bruised by a spirited Zimbabwe, and then being blown away by India, leading to the inevitable resurgence of that choke word, de Villiers provided a welcome reminder that this team has the quality to compete for the title.
His demolition of the Windies was a superb show as he became the man to race to the fastest ODI 150 in a World Cup, leading from the front as the Proteas secured a comprehensive 257-run win in Sydney – the highest winning margin at this tournament.
No wonder The Herald-Sun was asking in their headline this week that “Can anybody contain AB?”
Since his hand surgery in January last year, he has scored 1 345 runs at an average of 79.1 in 22 ODI innings and there have been seven 50s and four 100s.
In the past six weeks, he has scored the fastest ODI half century, off just 16 balls against the Windies, the fastest ODI century off just 31 balls against the same opponents and the fastest ODI 150 off just 64 balls.
And, suddenly, no one is talking about the Proteas choking at this World Cup and the mood here is that they better avoid the Aussies in the quarter-finals.
The good thing about de Villiers is that he remains that humble leader.
“I decided when I was 10 that I was going to do something in sport,” The Herald-Sun recalled his interview he did with the Independent of the UK 10 years ago.
“But it’s very important to stay humble, that was a big part of my growing up, not getting big-headed.
“It’s part of the Afrikaans culture, playing it hard and doing your best.”
The Proteas will need their big-hitting skipper to ensure that their star doesn’t fade at this World Cup and, if what he did against the Windies is anything to go by, they could even go all the way and end all the years of waiting for the big trophy.