AB de Villiers has set such high standards over the years that a rare lean patch leaves the world in disbelief. His range of strokes, his ability to adapt to all kinds of match scenarios, and a record that shows excellence across conditions had established him as a batting genius. Against this context, de Villiers' recent susceptibility to spin and his ordinary numbers have been surprising.
A masterclass at the start
Having missed the first few games of the IPL because of a shoulder injury, de Villiers delivered in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore, albeit in a losing cause. His unbeaten 89 in that game remains his highest across formats in 14 innings since. From 71 for 4 at the end of the 15th over, de Villiers single-handedly kept RCB in the game, as they more than doubled their total in the last five overs.
De Villiers' form, along with RCB's fortunes, slumped in the period that followed: he averaged just 15.87 in his next eight innings. In five of these innings, he was out for less than 10. A number of his preferred shots ended up being his undoing.
Krunal Pandya, an uncapped left-arm spinner, dismissed him twice in two innings this IPL season, extending a run where he has got de Villiers out four times in four matches. De Villiers finished IPL 2017 with an average of 27, among his worst over ten seasons.
After missing both the warm-up games before the ODI series against England, de Villiers got starts in all three games, including a fifty in the second match, which South Africa lost narrowly. He averaged 62 by the end of the series, courtesy an unbeaten 27 in the final game, where he guided a chase of 154 at Lord's.
Another trial by spin
De Villiers' Champions Trophy got off to a horrid start with two single-digit scores in South Africa's first two league games. After getting a leading edge off Sri Lankan legspinner Seekkuge Prasanna in the first game, he went hard at an Imad Wasim delivery and was out for a first-ball duck against Pakistan.