What makes de Villiers tick

Watching AB de Villiers at the crease, tearing into bowling attacks like he did at the Wankhede Stadium recently, is absolutely thrilling. But the performer himself, doing an almost robotic act of smashing, driving and flicking balls to the fence and into the stands, during a 61-ball 119 in the fifth ODI, remains unaffected by the hysteria around him.

AB de Villiers... enthralling even opponents.   -  PTI

Watching AB de Villiers at the crease, tearing into bowling attacks like he did at the Wankhede Stadium recently, is absolutely thrilling. But the performer himself, doing an almost robotic act of smashing, driving and flicking balls to the fence and into the stands, during a 61-ball 119 in the fifth ODI, remains unaffected by the hysteria around him.

De Villiers in form has a hypnotic effect on bowlers, reading the line and length so early, like a mind-reader. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh and Axar Patel were executing a plan, but appeared like feeding a batting machine, a silent prayer on their lips.

De Villiers muscled 11 sixers and spoke afterwards about  restraining himself at the crease! “I was a bit in a 50:50 mindset. It was relay difficult to control. I got a sniff early, got a bit of momentum and wanted to go (at the Indian attack) almost but held back the whole time.” South Africa have developed a habit of crossing 400-plus in 50 overs, it was another one of those days and the captain opened a window into his mind. “I don’t think of totals really when I am batting. I get a sense whether it’s a good wicket or not. I know our strengths, that is to have wickets in hand.”

Kohli touched upon the respect for De Villiers in dressing rooms. “He is an amazing batsman and is even greater as a person,” said the Indian, about his IPL teammate and rival for the Test series. The SA skipper, talking about feelings when ‘AB, AB’ chants echoed at the Wankhede, said: “It is very humbling to hear the crowd cheer for me. I can only be thankful with the opportunities I have had in my life. I will never forget it. It is an honour to be playing in front of huge Indian crowds.”

SA won a bilateral series in India for the first time and the captain touched upon the team work aspect in the squad. De Villiers joins the list of inspiring figures emerging to lead South Africa in team sport. The mix of players from different backgrounds and cultures presents a challenge mirrored by the diversity in Indian dressing rooms. "We are very hungry for success, we are very hungry to create history, we love travelling abroad, that’s where our team spirit kicks in and really plays a role in us playing better cricket. There’s no reason why we can’t win the Test series, there is a lot of hard work ahead.”

Selection based on reasons other than merit hampered South Africa in the past. Hearing de Villiers talk about team bonding far away from home is interesting. “We have got an incredible culture in the team and respect for each other. It is driven by some of the seniors, a culture that was started a few years ago. We know who we are playing for and why we play. We enjoy simple things about cricket, not only sport, but life too. I believe it is an area where we are better than other teams and very proud of that.”

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