Monday, March 16, 2015

AB de Villiers and the time to walk the path

As per the ICC rankings, AB de Villiers is the best batsman in the world right now in ODIs. He is the alpha male of ODI batting right now. Not only is he the best batsman overall, he is also the most dominant. He is slightly ahead of Amla, Sangakarra and Kohli overall I think, but quite a bit ahead of them in terms of the sheer fear factor that he brings to the opposition.

I have not seen a batsman who has made batting look more easy in the one day game than how AB de Villiers has been batting of late. With the new rules in play, AB de Villiers pretty much decides which are the 3 or 4 places that the ball can go and then chooses one of them and does that. Sometimes - he chooses just one place and goes through with the shot anyway. But this is not some new age hitter - like a Keiron Pollard or the new kid on the block - who is conquering all in front of him with his power hitting - Glenn Maxwell. AB de Villiers is a world class batsman capable of playing perfectly normal or what we call orthodox cricket, but often chooses the extraordinary option and makes it look ordinary while executing it.

With Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla - two other all time greats as well in his side, AB de Villiers really should be leading his side to World Cup glory. But the group stages have showed that they struggle chasing, in case Amla gets out early; as AB de Villiers is not getting enough support from the rest of the order under pressure. But here's the thing, unless some incredibly good delivery comes up, AB hasn't looked like getting out to a bowler at least. He seems to have so much time to play the ball, it looks like he is sometimes hitting boundaries as an afterthought. In terms of the physical and technical part of the game, AB is right now - as good as anybody I have ever seen hold the cricket bat.

If there is a weakness, if there is a question mark - it is about his decision making. For someone who has such a range of strokes and so much time to play his strokes - he faces a problem of the plenty - when deciding which shot to play. Or if it comes to a run chase - he has to make decisions like - whether to attack and take out a bowler and quickly finish off the game or sometimes play the waiting game. Or it could be a question of farming the strike with lower order batsmen at the crease. The risk-reward questions is what AB has to settle correctly and there perhaps a look at someone like Dhoni's approach might give AB an easier approach to win games.

The World Cup hangs by a thread - that of AB de Villiers' bat. It hasn't been like this - since Sachin Tendulkar in 1996, but an accident of a run out cut short that dream back then. Accidents can happen again, or so can mistakes. The margins of error, are very, very thin right now. But the fact of the matter is very simple - if AB de Villiers plays a big knock -(i)  batting first it will mean he has probably out batted the opposition or (ii) stays not out till the end - South Africa are going to win their matches and consequently the World Cup. It's like Messi and 2014 all over again - the greatest player of a generation at the peak of his powers, seeking World Cup glory. Can he take his country, who are yet to win a knock-out game ever in their World Cup history - through 3 games and to the Cup is the question.

To bring in a Matrix phrase: - AB by now, knows the path. It is time he walks it. 
The World Cup hangs on that bat
PS: Bonus Reading: How AB turned around his career a few years ago.

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