If something looks as complicated as rocket science, it should be. Only AB de Villiers doesn’t think so. The South African legend insisted that his game is so fundamental that when he offers tips to youngsters, they often look at him as if he is ‘crazy’.
It is tough to fault the younger lot because de Villiers has made the ‘Mr 360’ moniker all his own by wielding a magic wand in any and every way possible to slay attacks for over a decade. The latest example of his pyrotechnics came against Delhi Daredevils, where he smashed an unbeaten 90 from 39 balls to single-handedly take Royal Challengers Bangalore to a much-needed victory.
Expectedly, the Bangalore lynchpin didn’t make a big deal about his Man of the Match effort.
“I felt like he (Shahbaz Nadeem) could get me out and my way to counter that is to attack, to put pressure on him, and then he makes mistakes instead of me,” explained de Villiers on Monday (April 11), referring to his literally sweeping Nadeem away.
“It’s a game of chess in a way. I definitely don’t think too much and I also don’t live in the past. I came in there and saw it turn a bit and I thought straightaway: ‘There are two slips here, if I block, I will get out’. My way of transferring the pressure, to show that I am not there to block it, but I am there to score runs… it’s that simple.”
On Trent Boult’s catch to dismiss Virat Kohli:
“It is not the best catch I have ever seen, but it’s certainly the best catch of this tournament, and I do not see anyone beating that this season unless something freakish happens. I am going to try (chuckles), but we’ll see what happens. Congrats to Boult, I cannot believe that catch stuck. It was almost a game changer. Those catches stick or they don’t. There are too many good catches that I have seen all around the world over the years. There have been Jonty (Rhodes), (Herschelle) Gibbs, (Ricky) Ponting moments. Too many good catches to say it is the best I have ever seen, but it was a really great catch. It will definitely make my top ten.”
Not one to mince words, de Villiers revealed that he felt threatened enough to go on the offensive. “I felt he could get me out. That’s what it’s about. I felt threatened, thinking, ‘This guy is going to get me out and the field is showing me that they’re trying to get me out’. I tried to get to them by transferring the pressure on them.”
Instincts, clearly, are at the core of de Villiers’s technique. Solid basics, great hand-eye coordination and confidence are the basis for de Villiers’s numbers in all formats. Sure, his ingenuity and ability to switch multiple gears at a time set him apart in the shortest format, most visible in the glitzy world of the IPL, but none of his actions are premeditated. A generic plan is in place, but every shot is a reaction to what comes out of the bowler’s hand and corresponding field placements.
“I just play the moment. I try not to think ahead or about what happened. I live for the moment and figure out what’s happening at that specific time; I see a weakness in the bowler and think, ‘Can I maybe expose him in some way?’ If I can’t (expose him) I’ll try and maybe stick to the basics, wait for him to make a mistake and then jump on it,” he said.
“I don’t overthink things. I just keep it very simple. I watch the ball, see it coming out of the bowler’s hand clearly and I wait for a bit of weakness in the moment. I do not try and accelerate unnecessarily or go the other way unnecessarily, I just try and play what’s in front of me.”
On Kohli’s captaincy:
“Yeah, he has been fantastic. The true judge of a good captain is when you don’t perform well and still do a good job of leading a side. He’s come through with flying colours when it comes to that. He’s still putting in a lot of effort and energy into the team, into preparing us and keeping energy during training sessions. That’s the characteristic of a true captain. He has been a fantastic captain for us and I know that he’s going to score a lot of runs for us in the rest of the tournament. Even if he doesn’t, I know he’ll be a good leader and the team will back him up.”
It may seem straight out of Virender Sehwag’s ‘see ball, hit ball’ playbook, but there are few in the world of cricket who can inculcate the method, let alone execute it to the degree de Villiers has.
“Most of my advice normally is, don’t over-think it, don’t complicate things, keep it simple. I have spoken to a lot of youngsters, a number of times and they look at me as If I am crazy because I tell them it is basic… ‘Keep it simple, keep your head still, watch the ball, don’t think too much’. And they are like ‘No, that can’t be it’. But, it is what it is all about – it is mastering the basics and the rest falls in the place.”
He continued: “I have even surprised myself throughout my career. It is never been a planned act, it has always been about the basics. Making sure that I do it exceptionally well, and the rest falls into place. The youngsters just think how I do that and stuff, but it is actually just the basics.”
It wasn’t just his technique that de Villiers brought down to a singular point, he extended the logic to his emotions too, insisting that success and failure don’t change his mood.
“The funny thing with people who play sport is that they always compare their value as a person in results, which is a wrong thing to do. When you do well, of course, you feel good about yourself,” he said.
On Ashish Nehra’s contribution as bowling coach:
“He has done it himself for some many years, so he has all the experience. He knows what it feels like to be under pressure. He knows what bowlers are thinking when they are hit for six. He knows what batsmen are thinking. He gives good advice. He is a calm and collected guy, who gives great advice under pressure.”
“There is a fine line between success and failure and for sports people, it is always important to remember that. I have learned how to deal with success and failure over the years, and not to let it spike up and down too much, and have more of a straight line. It is important to stay in the moment and not think about what happened in the past.”
De Villiers’s ascetic approach will be ideal for Bangalore when they gear up to face Chennai Super Kings on April 25. After all, the table-toppers have a hermit of their own in MS Dhoni.
“It’s the highlight for now,” de Villiers said, playing down the high-profile contest in Bangalore. “We want to stay in the moment. After the game is over it won’t be the highlight anymore. So it’s one game at a time, one moment for us. I won’t say it’s a highlight or anything like that. It’s an important game and we would like to get a win under the belt.”