Pune Warriors v Royal Challengers, IPL 2013, Pune May 2, 2013

De Villiers refines T20 hitting

AB de Villiers' latest Twenty20 onslaught shows he's currently the most nerveless all-round hitter of a cricket ball around
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There are hitters. There are finishers. There are sloggers. And there are, as Brad Hodge says, "cultured sloggers," such as AB de Villiers, who have taken Twenty20 batting to another level. After his latest assault on Ashok Dinda tonight, "surreal slogger" is more like it. It wasn't the fact that de Villiers took 26 runs off the Dinda over. It was the ridiculous regularity with which he kept coming up with different strokes for different deliveries and kept executing them.

Sample these. Very wide ball slog-swept over deep midwicket. Wide ball carted straight over the bowler. Short slower ball smashed flat over long-off. Full delivery reverse-swept to fine third man. Length ball scooped from outside off over short fine leg. Forget Dinda. Last IPL season, de Villiers did the same to Dale Steyn, the highlight being a near-yorker on middle stump lofted over extra cover for six.

It is very well to say that T20 frees the batsman from the bother of having to guard his wicket and in a way, forces him to innovate with the pressing need to score more all the time. While that means a great bowler like Steyn can easily have an off day in the format, it does not explain the almost eerie calm with which de Villiers' scoops a fast bowler over short fine leg.

This is an incredibly difficult shot to execute, even without the fear that you can get out. And there is also the risk of injuring yourself badly. Brendon McCullum did it with success against the extreme pace of Shaun Tait in 2010, and has said he knew he could have had his jaw smashed, but went for it anyway., as he did not think he could have scored in front of square.

For many batsmen, the scoop is an option to break free. Many bend their knees and go across with clear desperation in their eyes, hoping to connect and avoid getting hit. De Villiers tries this shot regularly, and he makes it appear as normal as if he were going for a cover drive. There is absolutely no desperation about him, neither in expression nor in movement.

And then the reverse sweep to the fast bowler. The way he turned Dinda miles clear of short third man, he might as well have been glancing one off his pads past short fine leg. These are no longer innovations for de Villiers, or ploys to unsettle a bowler. They are as normal a part of his arsenal as orthodox cricketing shots, of which he has plenty as well.

Chris Gayle bulldozes attacks with sheer presence and reach, but he has his hitting zones marked out. Kieron Pollard will go hard and straight. Bowlers can attempt to deny these batsmen what they prefer. How does one attempt to control de Villiers, whose range is 360 degrees?

The first time he was involved in a one-over eliminator scenario, against Delhi Daredevils, he and Gayle took singles off the first three balls. De Villiers couldn't connect with the fourth. No problem. He sent the last two over deep midwicket for six.

The absence of the need to guard his wicket would have been of little help at that moment. It is a combination of extraordinary skill, pinpoint execution and unbelievable clarity of mind that enables de Villiers to get away with he does. He has got to be the most nerveless all-round hitter of a cricket ball at the moment.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • PerfectTen on May 3, 2013, 6:52 GMT

    Very nice write-up about a batsman who is the most articulate with the bat in hand! You go dumbfounded watching him literally toy with the bowlers' mind. And, he put his method in simple words after that innings - read the situation, read the bowler's mind and then let your skills take-over. And, what amazing skills!! If Dinda can imagine some other bowler (even if it is his team mate) being at the receiving end like this, he would enjoy & applaud AB's abilities and hopefully learn a lot. I'm sure after a similar over last year, even Steyn would have added something to his repertoire. When Gayle goes on the offensive, you feel sorry for the bowlers but when AB plays like this, you don't even think about them - just savour the moment.

  • Ahgg on May 3, 2013, 6:14 GMT

    Without a doubt the most brutal "cultured" hitter the game has ever seen. NO ONE except de villiers could have hit steyn with such ease almost every delivery. What's unique about him his ability to think what the bowler is going to bowl at him and hence his outrageous shots. Truly an immortal. A legend!!!

  • SidsIPLTeam on May 2, 2013, 21:24 GMT

    AB is a very very rare talent & one of the very few who have a full range of "orthodox" as well as the so called "unorthodox" shots in his armoury. But, he can be stopped. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar bowled a beautiful mixture of slower balls and cutters in the penultimate over and AB couldn't do much with them. Dinda, on the other hand, bowling at mostly the same pace and the same line everyball is a bit predictable and premeditated shots will often come off, especially when none of his yorkers landed in the right spot. Whle facing Dinda's last over, it seemed from AB's facial expressions that he almost knew what was about to happen. To say that it was Dinda why AB got away is in no way trying to take any credit away from his brilliance. Just trying to say that the 26 runs could have been 10 or 15, and could have been a different story with Pune winning maybe.

  • on May 5, 2013, 18:44 GMT

    AB Divilliers...the most nerveless all round hitter

  • DeckChairand6pack on May 3, 2013, 11:50 GMT

    The guys is simply the most talented batter of his generation. Don't forget, he also does a version of this in test cricket and can seriously mess with the bowlers melon.

  • on May 3, 2013, 11:21 GMT

    No word to express the way ABD plays the shot, no one can stops him in slog overs....thats true cricketing shots and very rare to see this kind of player.

  • Siva44472 on May 3, 2013, 9:26 GMT

    What a range of shots, he is having. Amazing hitting by ABD. He is not getting enough opportunity to score a century in T20. He has to be promoted to open the innings for RCB.

  • SurlyCynic on May 3, 2013, 9:08 GMT

    Funny to see people saying AB 'didn't do much' in the 19th over, when he only faced 2 balls in that over. The problem was Henriques couldn't get off strike - but AB made up for it in the last over.

  • on May 3, 2013, 9:08 GMT

    This guy did not score a 100 or a 200.All he does is notch up 30s and 50s and more sometimes.But it is the way he does it that catches the eye of people.Ab is a batsman in his own league and SA must be privileged to have him and i'm privileged to see him play and to live in a time he is playing..

  • sachin_vvsfan on May 3, 2013, 8:49 GMT

    I think it all started in that 2007 WC against Australia when AB came in as opener(promoted??). They were chasing some 370 runs and AB wasn't in any ones betting list. Though SA lost that match i think it paved the way for AB whose 90 odd runs filled with some master strokes showed the world that a class batsman was emerging. I always prefer to watch his knee bent shots than Gayles brutal assault.

  • PerfectTen on May 3, 2013, 6:52 GMT

    Very nice write-up about a batsman who is the most articulate with the bat in hand! You go dumbfounded watching him literally toy with the bowlers' mind. And, he put his method in simple words after that innings - read the situation, read the bowler's mind and then let your skills take-over. And, what amazing skills!! If Dinda can imagine some other bowler (even if it is his team mate) being at the receiving end like this, he would enjoy & applaud AB's abilities and hopefully learn a lot. I'm sure after a similar over last year, even Steyn would have added something to his repertoire. When Gayle goes on the offensive, you feel sorry for the bowlers but when AB plays like this, you don't even think about them - just savour the moment.

  • Ahgg on May 3, 2013, 6:14 GMT

    Without a doubt the most brutal "cultured" hitter the game has ever seen. NO ONE except de villiers could have hit steyn with such ease almost every delivery. What's unique about him his ability to think what the bowler is going to bowl at him and hence his outrageous shots. Truly an immortal. A legend!!!

  • SidsIPLTeam on May 2, 2013, 21:24 GMT

    AB is a very very rare talent & one of the very few who have a full range of "orthodox" as well as the so called "unorthodox" shots in his armoury. But, he can be stopped. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar bowled a beautiful mixture of slower balls and cutters in the penultimate over and AB couldn't do much with them. Dinda, on the other hand, bowling at mostly the same pace and the same line everyball is a bit predictable and premeditated shots will often come off, especially when none of his yorkers landed in the right spot. Whle facing Dinda's last over, it seemed from AB's facial expressions that he almost knew what was about to happen. To say that it was Dinda why AB got away is in no way trying to take any credit away from his brilliance. Just trying to say that the 26 runs could have been 10 or 15, and could have been a different story with Pune winning maybe.

  • on May 5, 2013, 18:44 GMT

    AB Divilliers...the most nerveless all round hitter

  • DeckChairand6pack on May 3, 2013, 11:50 GMT

    The guys is simply the most talented batter of his generation. Don't forget, he also does a version of this in test cricket and can seriously mess with the bowlers melon.

  • on May 3, 2013, 11:21 GMT

    No word to express the way ABD plays the shot, no one can stops him in slog overs....thats true cricketing shots and very rare to see this kind of player.

  • Siva44472 on May 3, 2013, 9:26 GMT

    What a range of shots, he is having. Amazing hitting by ABD. He is not getting enough opportunity to score a century in T20. He has to be promoted to open the innings for RCB.

  • SurlyCynic on May 3, 2013, 9:08 GMT

    Funny to see people saying AB 'didn't do much' in the 19th over, when he only faced 2 balls in that over. The problem was Henriques couldn't get off strike - but AB made up for it in the last over.

  • on May 3, 2013, 9:08 GMT

    This guy did not score a 100 or a 200.All he does is notch up 30s and 50s and more sometimes.But it is the way he does it that catches the eye of people.Ab is a batsman in his own league and SA must be privileged to have him and i'm privileged to see him play and to live in a time he is playing..

  • sachin_vvsfan on May 3, 2013, 8:49 GMT

    I think it all started in that 2007 WC against Australia when AB came in as opener(promoted??). They were chasing some 370 runs and AB wasn't in any ones betting list. Though SA lost that match i think it paved the way for AB whose 90 odd runs filled with some master strokes showed the world that a class batsman was emerging. I always prefer to watch his knee bent shots than Gayles brutal assault.

  • Shahed.Akhtar on May 3, 2013, 8:24 GMT

    "They are as normal a part of his arsenal as orthodox cricketing shots" - that's the essence! Indeed, few years from now, Cricket coaching will include coaching of these shots and they will be identified by the creator of them that is AB DeVilliers. A very good write-up by Abhishek about possibly the most competent cricketer in all international formats. There is this eerie simplicity to his approach that makes it look so cultured. Refinement is the right word. Well said.

  • soumyas on May 3, 2013, 8:20 GMT

    ABD was awesome, he has shown his abilities against the world's best bowler steyn. i was expecting similar late onslaught from him, Dinda who bowled well with fig. 26/2 in 3 overs conceded 26 in last 1 over. It wasn't dinda's mistake, it was AB's brilliance. Anyway, Uthappa also batted well, he was hitting sixes effortlessly. he has got the talent but doesn't know how to manage it and apply. he needs to play sensible, often throws his wicket. they have been the victims of one brilliant performance. before it was GAYLE, now ABD. all the best PUNE.

  • thinkgood on May 3, 2013, 8:01 GMT

    The final of IPL 6 is between RCB and CSK. Other teams may as well drop off the tournament and have the final now !

  • on May 3, 2013, 7:38 GMT

    brillaint article to describe a brillaint player

  • realfan on May 3, 2013, 7:23 GMT

    MONSTER.... thats the only word that i can be able to describe of ABD.... he is just wow..... who would score at a strike rate of 150+ in t20 and who would score 30+ runs in 200+ balls in test match????? man this guys is suited for all formats.......fair enough he is in my all time fav for all formats....

  • Perplexed on May 3, 2013, 7:21 GMT

    The most incredible thing about the shots where AB goes down on his knees, nay falls down in a controlled manner as he hits the ball, is his awareness of his stumps. You can clearly see that he knows exactly where they are and he is making a conscious effort to stay away from them.

    Incredible athlete.

  • hellraiser9 on May 3, 2013, 7:18 GMT

    This article missed one great man ..the one and only Dhoni .. who is in his own league ..Smasher, Destroyer and a Super King.. He has zones marked like Gayle.. he can come with innovative shots like ABD .. example.. sweep shots played in last game to a fast bowler.. He can literally tear apart any bowling attack with ease before the innings finish AND he is very consistent .. plus he is a proven captain , a great leader. His presence might not send down shivers like Gayle but he is a combination of Gayle , ABD and few others mixed and blended into one.. And this article missed it completely.. wow.. ABD is creative no doubt..with his shots..playing unique shots. but Dhoni.. will make even normal shots look so powerful with brute force. Even his mistimed shots might just clear the ropes. and not to forget what a great runner behind the wickets. DHONI should be right on top with Gayle.. and ABD close second.. of course dont forget sehwag.

  • on May 3, 2013, 7:00 GMT

    I can remember him saying he wants to be the best batsman in the world when he started. This is a special tallent and we are priviledged to be able to enjoy it.

  • Naresh28 on May 3, 2013, 6:26 GMT

    I watched that over and saw how Dinda tried to bang it in every time. A player like AB needs a mix of speeds but Dinda kept feeding him. Great batting by AB as he created angles to all his shots. Hope Dinda learnt from his bowling.

  • on May 3, 2013, 6:24 GMT

    ABD is a dangerous & clever batsman. You can't replace him with anyone...

  • on May 3, 2013, 4:32 GMT

    Amazing Temperament and total Class. How a Batsman can hit every Ball with excusive technique and tremendous power. Not even a single shot we can say was Like Afridi shot or Sehwag Shot. Pure Technique. Reverse Sweep to a Fast Bowler was amazing. It shows how fast AB thinks and how fast he changes the decision and executes the same. Hitting ball with Power is something Gayle does but hitting runs with cricketing technique is what AB does. He has bigger role in Bangalore team thn Gayle I reckon.

  • abhiyog on May 2, 2013, 23:11 GMT

    We all know about his innovative shots, but does anyone remember that he played out 220 balls without scoring a boundary making just 33 in the Adelaide test against Aussies few months ago to save the match from dire straits supporting Faf in a stubborn stand....Rock On ABD

  • sgd120 on May 2, 2013, 22:14 GMT

    That over was the difference between the 2 teams tonight, so RCB needed that over from deVilliers. He just has outrageous ability, and is in full flow this year.

  • on May 2, 2013, 21:04 GMT

    This was one of the most mind-blowing exhibitions of batting I have ever seen, and I said the same of his innings against Steyn last year.

    AB de Villiers is without a doubt the most stupendously talented batsman in world cricket right now, regardless of format. I routinely stay up all night here in Canada just for the chance to catch him in action. When he's in flow and has a touch of luck on his side, watching him effortlessly dismantle a bowling attack is a near transcendental experience. Beyond extraordinary.

  • on May 2, 2013, 20:39 GMT

    the way AB bats, he leaves no choice for a bowler .. He has shorts for all the deliveries either short pitch, length ball, yorker, wide one , slower one and all other sort of deliveries. Teams feel gayle a threat but I think AB is a real threat and RCB should promote him on opening slot as he did against Pakistan earlier this year. He can use power play over really very well..

  • on May 2, 2013, 20:27 GMT

    AB is probably the only bloke who can give all batting records a run for their money. Godspeed.

  • SurlyCynic on May 2, 2013, 19:59 GMT

    Great article. I love watching Gayle smash sixes or Kohli dominate bowlers, but when AB cuts loose it's my favourite sight in cricket. And not just in T20s, in the recent test in Perth he went through the 'nervous nineties' with 3 consecutive reverse sweeps.

    His 6 off the Steyn yorker was the best shot in IPL 2012 for me, and I'm just glad that he's coming in a bit higher than last year when he sometimes came in at 6!

  • JamesSmithee on May 2, 2013, 19:01 GMT

    Dinda don't worry. ABD is the number one batsmen in the world. Most of the batsmen only good at either fast or slow wickets. But this man !!! I guess inelegance and born skills.

  • TNAmarkFromIndia on May 2, 2013, 18:46 GMT

    Spare a thought for the Pune Warriors. They're such a poor team. They've gotten all these great players and yet they've been losing with such consistency for three years. Maybe a change in owners will do the trick for them, just like it did for the Sunrisers Hyderabad.

  • HarishVaranasi on May 2, 2013, 18:41 GMT

    Poor Dinda - A bowler's worst nightmares are coming true this IPL, a sweep by MSD and now a Reverse Sweep by ABD. Both world class fearless batsmen as Abhishek mentions but still a fast bowler for sweeps ! its Gayle getting out on first ball all the innings in this ipl.

  • HarishVaranasi on May 2, 2013, 18:41 GMT

    Poor Dinda - A bowler's worst nightmares are coming true this IPL, a sweep by MSD and now a Reverse Sweep by ABD. Both world class fearless batsmen as Abhishek mentions but still a fast bowler for sweeps ! its Gayle getting out on first ball all the innings in this ipl.

  • TNAmarkFromIndia on May 2, 2013, 18:46 GMT

    Spare a thought for the Pune Warriors. They're such a poor team. They've gotten all these great players and yet they've been losing with such consistency for three years. Maybe a change in owners will do the trick for them, just like it did for the Sunrisers Hyderabad.

  • JamesSmithee on May 2, 2013, 19:01 GMT

    Dinda don't worry. ABD is the number one batsmen in the world. Most of the batsmen only good at either fast or slow wickets. But this man !!! I guess inelegance and born skills.

  • SurlyCynic on May 2, 2013, 19:59 GMT

    Great article. I love watching Gayle smash sixes or Kohli dominate bowlers, but when AB cuts loose it's my favourite sight in cricket. And not just in T20s, in the recent test in Perth he went through the 'nervous nineties' with 3 consecutive reverse sweeps.

    His 6 off the Steyn yorker was the best shot in IPL 2012 for me, and I'm just glad that he's coming in a bit higher than last year when he sometimes came in at 6!

  • on May 2, 2013, 20:27 GMT

    AB is probably the only bloke who can give all batting records a run for their money. Godspeed.

  • on May 2, 2013, 20:39 GMT

    the way AB bats, he leaves no choice for a bowler .. He has shorts for all the deliveries either short pitch, length ball, yorker, wide one , slower one and all other sort of deliveries. Teams feel gayle a threat but I think AB is a real threat and RCB should promote him on opening slot as he did against Pakistan earlier this year. He can use power play over really very well..

  • on May 2, 2013, 21:04 GMT

    This was one of the most mind-blowing exhibitions of batting I have ever seen, and I said the same of his innings against Steyn last year.

    AB de Villiers is without a doubt the most stupendously talented batsman in world cricket right now, regardless of format. I routinely stay up all night here in Canada just for the chance to catch him in action. When he's in flow and has a touch of luck on his side, watching him effortlessly dismantle a bowling attack is a near transcendental experience. Beyond extraordinary.

  • sgd120 on May 2, 2013, 22:14 GMT

    That over was the difference between the 2 teams tonight, so RCB needed that over from deVilliers. He just has outrageous ability, and is in full flow this year.

  • abhiyog on May 2, 2013, 23:11 GMT

    We all know about his innovative shots, but does anyone remember that he played out 220 balls without scoring a boundary making just 33 in the Adelaide test against Aussies few months ago to save the match from dire straits supporting Faf in a stubborn stand....Rock On ABD

  • on May 3, 2013, 4:32 GMT

    Amazing Temperament and total Class. How a Batsman can hit every Ball with excusive technique and tremendous power. Not even a single shot we can say was Like Afridi shot or Sehwag Shot. Pure Technique. Reverse Sweep to a Fast Bowler was amazing. It shows how fast AB thinks and how fast he changes the decision and executes the same. Hitting ball with Power is something Gayle does but hitting runs with cricketing technique is what AB does. He has bigger role in Bangalore team thn Gayle I reckon.