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Ken Borland


Ruthless AB makes it all look so easy … but it ain’t

Posted on April 07, 2015 by Ken

AB de Villiers slamming six after six at the Wanderers and the peaceful surrounds of the Kruger National Park may not have much in common, but seeing as though I was at the Bullring last weekend and I am now in South Africa’s corner of paradise up north, I’m going to link them anyway.

I say the peaceful surrounds of Kruger because it certainly brings a wonderful feeling of wellbeing and there is a sense of the universe being in harmony as you watch the swallows cruising in the sky and zebra and elephant feeding contentedly.

Of course, as children we have this idyllic image of nature, but the truth is that there is a battle for survival going on in the great outdoors every moment, and it’s generally a case of eat or be eaten.

Watching this great show unfold on the plains north of Punda Maria, I was reminded of De Villiers, cricket tragic that I am.

It’s been many years – probably back to 2005/06 when Herschelle Gibbs annihilated the Australians at the same venue – since I have seen an innings at international level in which a batsman so ruthlessly dominated the opposition bowlers.

Much like the peaceful façade going on in Kruger Park, De Villiers made batting look like child’s play on the surface. He seemed to be toying with the bowlers: If he wanted to score on the leg-side, he was able to even if they bowled a metre outside off stump; if he wanted to score on the off-side, there was precious little the West Indians could do about it; on any length, De Villiers was able to hit straight back down the ground.

It may have looked easy, but it most certainly isn’t; it took hours and hours of work in the nets and mastering the mental side of the game, plus an extraordinary talent switched on to close to full power for that innings to happen.

International sport relies on the competition being fierce; these are the top athletes in their chosen sports competing with each other and there needs to be the thrill of the hunt.

Mixed in with the feelings of awe at watching De Villiers bat were pangs of regret that he was making batting look as easy as a hit-about on the beach.

But the fact that De Villiers was so utterly dominant should not detract from his innings – that is his genius, to create another level for himself above the ‘mediocrity’ of international sport. To find or clear the boundary 25 times from 44 balls is an almost super-human feat, but by his own admission, De Villiers has not yet fully explored his talent – there were a handful of dot balls (oh, the horror!) in his innings and some of his fours would have been sixes if they had come entirely out of the meat of the bat.

I was wearing a Proteas shirt driving up to Kruger Park the day after the Wanderers ODI and received several very positive comments from locals living in rural Limpopo which suggests Cricket South Africa, after some acrimonious years of discontent, are doing a great job in spreading the game.

It helps, of course, to have young men like De Villiers providing such incredible entertainment.

 

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