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

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

  • dummy4fb 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.

  • dummy4fb 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.

  • dummy4fb 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.

  • Cricinfouser 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 !