That AB de Villiers is one of the most explosive batsmen of our time is totally undisputed. In ODI cricket he has scored nearly 8000 runs at an average of 53 and a strike rate of close to 99. He is clearly on the path to all-time greatness.
He already has 20 ODI centuries and will have many more. He has scored 34 runs in an over once and 30 runs two times. He has hit 16 sixes in an ODI innings and has both the fastest 50 and the fastest 100.
In all World Cup matches combined, he has scored 1142 runs at an average of 60.1 and a strike rate of 116. He is currently in sizzling form for the quarter-final match against Sri Lanka in World Cup 2015.
He has everything going for him, or has he?
There is one thing that is totally against him. And that is his performance in World Cup knock-out matches—both ODI and T20. In one way he symbolizes the choking abilities of South Africa which have lost all their World Cup knockout matches ever since they played their first one way back in 1992.
De Villiers burst into the international scene in 2004 and got his very first chance to play a knockout match in the ODI World Cup in 2007. South Africa batted first with World Champions Australia and was soon in trouble when seniors Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis left quickly at the score of 12-2.
ABD was at the crease and he could have played himself in and then gone ballistic for SA to have any real chance. Instead he played a laboured 34-ball 15 to get out quickly and his team was really reeling at 26-3 a position from which it never recovered.
South Africa was 149 all down and Australia won with close to 20 overs to spare.
In 2009, the Proteas entered the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup and here they faced eventual champions Pakistan. Batting first Pakistan made 149, much like the score above, but this time in a T20 match.
History repeated itself though when both Smith and Kallis left by 40-2 and de Villiers followed soon after to make it 50-3. He didn’t even last 6 balls! It was only a rearguard action by JP Duminy (44 off 39) that saw South Africa lose by just 7 runs in the end.
Then came the ODI World Cup in 2011 and it was the “Battle of the Chokers” between South Africa and New Zealand (the latter had also not won a knockout match in ODI World Cups). New Zealand made just 221 runs.
De Villiers made a slow 35 off 40 but was out when the score was just 121-5. Again South Africa didn’t deliver and were 172 all down.
The fourth instance for de Villiers came in the semi-final of the T20 World Cup in 2014. Batting first South Africa made a formidable 172-4. It was a fine score thanks to the likes of Faf du Plessis and Duminy.
You could say that the Proteas didn’t choke. However Virat Kohli’s brutal and unbeaten 72 off 44 balls saw a fine Indian victory. And what was de Villiers contribution in that match? A mere 10 runs off 8 balls and he was out when there were close to 5 overs left.
Even though South Africa didn’t choke, de Villiers did. That makes it 4/4 failures in World Cup knockout matches for ABD.
In fact India saw de Villiers choking abilities up close in the 2007 T20 WC. In the last match of the league, India made a not so formidable 154. Had South Africa won that match, they would have qualified for the semi-finals and kicked India out.
The Proteas needed just 126 runs to make it to the semis, but they managed 116-9 in 20 overs. So what about de Villiers? He made just 1 run in 4 balls and got out early on in the innings!
When South Africa takes on Sri Lanka in the quarter-finals, de Villiers has nothing to fear from the bowlers or fielders. He has nothing to fear from any strategy that the Lankans may throw at him.
He is a brilliant batsmen and in the form of his life. A normal game from ABD will see the Proteas through.
Ab de Villiers is fighting AB de Villiers to not choke in a World Cup knockout match for the fifth time in a row. That is the only battle he has to win. The rest will be a piece of cake!The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/