One of the defining moments of the ongoing IPL is the catch that ABD took on the boundary line to dismiss Alex Hale. A few similar catches have been taken during this IPL, but nothing can match the grace, glamour and gravitas of this catch.
In terms of sheer athleticism, no cricketer can even remotely match ABD. He was U19 player for South Africa in Rugby, football and hockey. As if this was not enough he was a national level swimmer and was a wonderful debator. A devout Christian, he is a lovely guitarist like Brett Lee and a crooner too.
34 is no age to retire, for such a charismatic cricketer, when he played such a wonderful 126 not out against Australia this year, to win the test and set the tone of the series against their bêtes noire over the years. It’s true that he was not the same IPL player he was when he scored 27 against a rampaging Dale Steyn, the best fast bowler in 2015. But he was good enough to upset any apple cart on his day for a few more years.
Most cricketing greats retire at the tail end of their thirties or early forties, more so when people start asking when they will show their gloves. Closer home, the debate was on Kapil and Sachin. They certainly were not the same in the last three years of their illustrious career. The same was the case with doughty Steve Waugh, when Alan Border as a selector, had an unenviable task when to close his innings. MSD is also going through this dilemma, whether to leave the cricketing gloves to Dinesh Kartik in 2019 world cup or carry on behind the stumps. Devillers is a different kettle of fish.
He wrote a fascinating autobiography ‘AB’, how he averaged 36.4 in 50 one-dayers till 2008, till Jack Kallies told him the importance of REPS. Which stands for Recognizing the thin line between success and failure, Enhancing key relationships, Prepare for life after cricket and Stay close to the cross. He steadfastly observed REPS in his career after 2008 for a decade as he averaged 63 in around 150 one-dayers, which even the great Viv Richards did not achieve.
ABD was always very complimentary to his cricketing peers. He is in fact extremely fond of Kohli. At the end of 2017 IPL season, he asked him how long he was going to play cricket. For ever, repled a brimming Kohli.
One wishes, ABD had played for ever, those incredible reverse sweeps and those effortless lofted drives. The game of cricket has seen several geniuses. Viv Richards was the God on the onside, Hammond on the offside, Pointing was the master of the pull shot, Lara was a scourge against the best of spin. Bradman was the master on either side of the wicket, as was Sachin. But even the Don was vulnerable to short-pitched fast bowling of Harold Larwood, as Sachin was to the inswingers. Every great batsman had their vulnerability; Ponting to quality spin, Lara to quality outswingers from McGrath, and Viv to short-pitched stuff from Dennis Lilee. ABD was not only glorious on both sides of the wicket but was the real master against both quality pace & spin. He was 360-degree player, a distinction no other batsman could achieve.
Amongst the three charismatic batsmen South Africa has produced, Greame Pollock, the left-handed Bradman, Jack Kallies, the ever-reliable Steve Waugh of South Africa, ABD stands as the tallest and leaps the best, the closest to Jonty Rhodes in terms of athleticism in the cricketing ring.
Like all geniuses, he had feet of clay. He was not a great finisher; he could not win South Africa, a world cup final. Much like Messi, possibly his record for his country would be a matter of debate. But what will be beyond debate is the exceptional joy he gave to the spectators in both test match and one-dayers and most adorable human being, who could hum with his peers and adversaries the beautiful Calypso of cricket, the Bollywood of Bonding. Life after Active Cricket, for ABD, one wishes to be as joyful as the unalloyed joy he gave us on the field!
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