Thank you, Mr. 360

There was hardly a blade of grass left untouched when A. B. de Villiers scored those hundreds especially in the white-ball format.

Simply superb: An airborne AB de Viliers takes a spectacular catch during an IPL game. The anticipation when AB came in to bat was something else. Nobody, including the bowlers, knew what to expect and that was what added to the excitement and the thrills.   -  PTI

A. B. de Villiers’ retirement from all formats of cricket will mean the game will be the poorer for it. If there was a batsman who brought the crowds to their feet it was AB. Yes, there have been and currently are some of the finest batsmen the game has seen but the anticipation when AB came in to bat was something else. Nobody, including the bowlers, knew what to expect and that was what added to the excitement and the thrills.

Hashim Amla played around the same time and at the start of their careers, Amla was probably getting more runs than him but not the same media space that AB was getting. At that stage many in South Africa, as well as outside, felt it was the usual stuff in South Africa where the coloured guy was not getting the due from what was then a pre-dominant white media. Over the years both have been absolutely terrific for South Africa, with Amla scoring runs the classical way while AB wrote a new handbook on how to play shots never seen before on a cricket ground. No wonder he was referred to as Mr. 360 degrees by the media. There was hardly a blade of grass left untouched when AB scored those hundreds especially in the white-ball format.

WATCH: De Villiers retires - Best career moments

Out of the many memorable knocks that he played, the one in the IPL where he took fellow South African great Dale Steyn apart remains vivid in the mind even today. Steyn was smarting from the treatment and really steaming in to bowl, but AB was hitting him as he would a junior school bowler. It was awesome and at the same time bit of a cringe to see one of the world’s greatest fast bowlers being treated like that. It’s another thing that both remain good friends even today but it would have been understandable if Steyn had refused to speak with him that evening and maybe a few more evenings.

Australia joined India, West Indies, Pakistan as countries who have won all three white ball formats of the ICC. It had won the World Cup and the Champions Trophy earlier but with the win in the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup it has now conquered all the three formats of the game. It played some outstanding cricket in the UAE to win the coveted trophy. One of the main architects of the win was David Warner whose form, coming into the tournament, was a bit of a concern and even his start in the World Cup wasn’t great. He just got better with every match and in the last couple of games he was pretty much unstoppable. After he was declared as the player of the tournament there were questions asked as to why he was not only removed as the captain of the Hyderabad team in the Indian Premier League but also dropped as a player. Adding insult to injury was the fact that he was among those players told not to come to the ground as only a limited number of reserve players were allowed at the venue in view of the pandemic rules.

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Warner copped it all and from the evidence of his performances in the ICC World Cup he is not only having the last laugh but will do so all the way to the bank when the auction for players for IPL 2022 happens a few weeks from now. It won’t be a surprise if he goes for a mega amount and since captains leading from the front were not exactly seen in the just finished edition he could well be leading the franchise that buys him.

Value addition: With Rahul Dravid taking over as the coach of the Indian side, V. V. S. Laxman has been named as the next head of the National Cricket Academy.   -  M. KARUNAKARAN

 

Brad Haddin, the former Australian wicket-keeper who was the fielding coach for the Hyderabad team, if quoted correctly, was saying that Warner wasn’t dropped for cricketing reasons. The reason that he was left out may never see the light of the day but it does bring into question the role of the support staff in the episode and treatment of one of the great players in the modern game. There were two other Australians apart from Haddin in positions that could have saved or contributed to the situation Warner found himself in. Tom Moody who was replaced by Trevor Bayliss as the coach was brought back as Director of Cricket which meant there were two centres of power and none of them have reasoned why Warner was dealt the way he was.

V. V. S. Laxman was also there as a mentor but it’s hard to imagine the genial VVS being a party to Warner’s predicament. It is learnt that VVS is going to be the new director at the National Cricket Academy replacing Rahul Dravid who has moved on to be the coach of the Indian team. Giving up the mentorship and commentary assignments and taking a hit in his earnings and moving to another city is so typical of the much-admired and much-loved Hyderabadi. Just like Rahul Dravid and he resurrected India from a hopeless position at the Eden Gardens and gave India an unlikely victory 20 years back, so also VVS will ensure that the supply line for Indian cricket remains well-oiled and silky smooth as some of those unforgettable strokes he unfurled over those two magical days in Kolkata.

Indian cricket has much to look forward to.

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