for quality writing

Ken Borland


It’s difficult to know what’s eating AB

Posted on June 26, 2017 by Ken

 

It’s difficult to know exactly what’s eating AB de Villiers.

It’s not so much the lack of matchwinning performances we have become accustomed to from a true genius – his form has actually been solid, averaging 56 at a strike-rate of 105 in ODIs this year – but more the manner and timing of his dismissals as well as his general demeanour.

Some of his comments dismissing other cricketers have been most unlike a player known for his sportsmanship and generosity, although AB has always had a tendency to speak confidently, as if it will make it come true if he says something enough times with enough conviction.

Since his decision to take a sabbatical from Test cricket, De Villiers has failed to score a century. But are we reading too much into that decision, which was presumably (and hopefully) extremely difficult to make? He did of course suffer a long-term elbow injury – a serious ailment for a batsman – before deciding to ease his workload.

(Interestingly, there is some scientific evidence to suggest the sort of elbow injury De Villiers suffered is seen more often in batsmen under pressure, whether that be due to poor form or the importance of their innings, basically gripping the handle too tightly).

Apart from the elbow injury, the 33-year-old De Villiers, who has always been such a great athlete, has also begun to suffer back problems and now a hamstring niggle, all of which must contribute to the pressure he must feel operating under such expectation at the highest levels of international sport.

The mental pressures are probably greater than the physical workload and De Villiers’ awful strokes to get out in his two Champions Trophy failures are indicative of mental fatigue more than anything else. For a batsman of his quality to slap a wide delivery first ball straight to backward point speaks of the mind being elsewhere.

It’s a controversial precedent that Cricket South Africa have allowed in letting De Villiers miss the crucial Test series in England, but the key question is how are the Proteas management going to get the best out of one of the biggest trumpcards in world cricket through to 2019?

The first piece of the puzzle should be to make Faf du Plessis captain in all formats. Removing the ODI captaincy from De Villiers will no doubt be a great disappointment for someone who is as passionate about representing and leading his country as anyone, but I think the pressures of captaincy are making him sick.

In the field, De Villiers just seems harassed and under pressure, constantly consulting his bowlers and causing the Proteas to have problems with the over-rate police. Counter-intuitively, this all seems to happen while De Villiers sometimes sticks slavishly to plans despite the current situation on the field. Cases in point are the first 10 overs against Sri Lanka, when he did not make a bowling change despite the flood of runs, and the decision to recall the expensive Wayne Parnell just before the rain against Pakistan.

By contrast, Du Plessis just seems a more natural captain and things just seem to be more slick with him at the helm.

By unburdening De Villiers, we will be able to see whether we are dealing with just the vagaries of form or the gradual winding down of a great career.

Let’s not forget, similar questions were being asked of Hashim Amla not that long ago, and he has obviously answered them in the best way possible.

Let’s hope that the best talents of De Villiers will be a part of the Proteas for a long time to come. If that means a lessening of his work-load, wouldn’t it be worth it?

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-kzn/20170610/282372629589258

Leave a Reply




↑ Top