Clive Rice - Legend Speak

Clive Rice looks at the contribution of South Africa's young sensation.

Sunday, April 06, 2022
AB de Villiers is the next Gilchrist

Few people in the history of Test cricket have been required to make as versatile a start to their international careers as was the case with the richly talented AB de Villiers. His first call-up came against England in 2004 as an opening batsman when Herschelle Gibbs was injured. When the latter reclaimed his place, De Villiers took over the specialist batsman/wicketkeeper position at No 7 and made a match-saving half-century that prevented the Proteas from going 2-0 down in the five-match series. 

Then Mark Boucher returned after a spell out of favour with the national selectors, so De Villiers became the No 6 specialist batsman. There was still no settled position as Graeme Smith got concussed halfway through the fourth Test, so it was back to the top of the order for the remainder of the series. He celebrated by scoring 92 and his maiden Test century of 109 in his first Test on his home SuperSport Park ground.

That was the start of a run of 10 innings against England, Zimbabwe and the West Indies in which he scored three centuries and two 90s.

He has now settled as South Africa's No 6 Test match batsman where he played two important innings for the Proteas in Pakistan, significantly both in the first innings when runs are at a premium. More recently he scored his fourth Test century against the West Indies at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead.

For a player of such natural ball-striking ability it may surprise some that he took time to establish himself at ODI level but he has done well over the past 12 months. He scored 372 runs with a strike rate of 100.81 at an average of 37.20 during the ICC CWC WI 2007. His 146 runs off 130 balls against the West Indies at St. George's in Grenada showed glimpses of his immense talent and ability.

Since then he has changed his role to the No 4 position where he scored his third ODI century at Lahore against Pakistan and then made a man-of-the-match-winning 87 against New Zealand at Sahara Stadium, Kingsmead.

Prior to the World Cup AB scored 231 runs against Pakistan at an average of 115.50 and with a strike rate of 92.40 in the home MTN ODI Series at the end of last summer. 

AB a junior was also part of the golf academy in South Africa and an extremely good player playing off a scratch handicap.

He chose cricket to be his sport and we are delighted to be able to appreciate his immense talent. He is a natural athlete as can be seen by his quick agile ability in the covers very reminiscent of Jonty Rhodes. His versatility of also been very capable as an international wicket keeper gives the South African team another allrounder in the team. This adds to the depth of any team and makes them harder to beat. He will be the natural successor to Mark Boucher.

His ability to face the new ball has been developed by the team utilising him as an opening batsman in ODI's. He has developed a strong defence against the new ball which is proving vital in the middle order when the second new ball is due. He is very good on hooking or pulling the short ball and it might be his demise at times as he sometimes tries when the ball is a little to full.

I think he will play a future roll very similar to the one Gilchrist has been playing in the Australian team.

His 217 not out was typical of the speed that he scores runs. He is extremely difficult to contain as he is so quick between wickets and he improvises his shots so it makes a captains and bowlers job a nightmare as they try and contain him.

He is a very disciplined person as a result of his schooling in Pretoria under the head master Pierre Edwards who was a Springbok rugby player. His school was Afrikaans Hoer Skool which is renowned for the sportsman that they develop. A B Devilliers is one of their best.