Words by Fanie Heyns
AB de Villiers is one of South Africa’s greatest-ever sport stars, and an iconic figure, with a following of 6.9 million fans on social media.
In an international cricket career that spanned 14 years, he became universally known as Mr 360 and as an all-time great in tests..
When AB is on song, he is impossible to bowl to and almost impossible to write about as bowlers run out of ideas and journalists and TV-analysts search desperately for new accolades to describe his phenomenal feats as a master batsman.
The cold facts and statistics are mesmerizing. He produced 22 centuries in 114 tests for the South African cricket team at an average of 50.66, and 25 centuries in 228 One Day Internationals at an average of 53.5.
Dr Ali Bacher, a former South African captain and former managing director of Cricket South Africa, once described De Villiers as the most brilliant, innovative batsman the world has ever seen. “He plays shots that the world has never seen before,” Bacher added.
De Villiers is the batsman that have scored the fastest 50, 100 and 150 ever in One Day Internationals.
In January 2015, he produced 149 runs off only 44 balls against the West Indian Islands in a One-Day International. His half-century came off only 16 balls and he completed his 100 after facing a mere 31 balls. His audacious shot-making had the world’s cricketing media in awe of his class.
An understated gentleman, AB’s reaction to that Herculean feat was typically modest.
De Villiers was an integral part of two of the finest South African cricket teams that ever took the field – the all-conquering Proteas of 2008, and the equally devastating unit of 2012 that won test series against England and Australia on enemy soil.
Greatness is measured by how many tests a batsman can win for his country, and De Villiers achieved that feat on many occasions. It was his century in Perth in 2008 that set up a chase that yielded 414 for 4 as Australia capitulated meekly. And in 2012 on the same ground, he posted a 184-ball 169 and South Africa won another series against the mighty Australians.
The Australians were well-positioned in South Africa in 2018, or so they thought, until another De Villiers master class of batting yielded 126 off only 146 which turned the tables on the Baggy Greens and South Africa ultimately won the test series 3-1.
As a captain in tests and One Day Internationals, De Villiers is universally respected. He put his body on the line and had the ability to inspire his team-mates with his batting and world-class fielding.
During the 2015 Cricket World Cup, he averaged more than 96 with the bat as captain, and he was left in tears because of South Africa’s heart-breaking exit in the semi-finals of the competition.
He proposed to his girlfriend, Danielle Swart, at the Taj Mahal in 2012 after five years of dating. The couple were married in March 2013. They have two sons.
He is a devout Christian and has stated that his faith is crucial to his approach in life. He is also an accomplished guitar player and a singer. In 2010, he released a bilingual pop album entitled Maak Jou Drome Waar with his friend and South African singer Ampie du Preez.
He believes that fathers should spend time with their children and really TALK to them about all aspects of life -about the difficult subjects too.
“We need to talk to our kids. Especially to our boys. We need to show them and teach them how to be good men.”