Abraham Benjamin de Villiers
February 17, 1984, Pretoria
Right hand bat
Right arm medium
A batsman of breathtaking chutzpah and enterprise. A cricketer with overflowing talent and the temperament to back it up. A fielder able to leap tall buildings and still come up with the catch - and who will happily move behind the stumps into the wicketkeeper's spot if needed. A fine rugby player, golfer, and tennis player. AB de Villiers has emerged as one of South Africa's greats.
De Villiers is a 360-degree batsman who can hit any ball, anywhere, against any bowler. Indeed, his range of inventive shots has grown as his career has unfolded. He has been ranked among the top Test and ODI batsmen in the world and has established a cult-like following in T20 cricket, where his performances in the IPL have earned him a legion of Indian fans.
De Villiers made his Test debut against England in 2004 (in the same match as Dale Steyn), when he was picked after just 16 first-class matches. He opened the batting in that match. He was later moved into the middle order and asked to keep wicket. That would become the story of his career. De Villiers has batted everywhere from No.1 to No.8 and performed well in most of those positions.
After a brief slump in form in 2006 and 2007, de Villiers' returned early in 2008 with a blistering 103 not out off 109 balls in Durban against West Indies. Later that year, he became the first South African to score a double-century against India with his undefeated 217 at Ahmedabad. He topped that up with 174 at Leeds in South Africa's first series win in England since readmission and a 106* against Australia in Perth in the country's first series win in Australia post-readmission. That was de Villiers' best Test year, with 1061 runs at 58.94.
He first came close to that again in 2010, when he scored 996 runs in the calendar year. His 278* against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi gave him the highest individual score by a South African in Test cricket (Hashim Amla later scored a triple-century). That same year, de Villiers also struck three successive ODI centuries - two against India and one against West Indies.
The second time he came within touching distance of four figures in a Test calendar year was in 2013 when he scored 933 runs to ensure South Africa kept the Test mace they won in 2012. By then, de Villiers had also accepted the responsibility of full-time Test gloveman after Mark Boucher's retirement, as well as the ODI and T20 captaincy after Graeme Smith stepped down. He later handed over the T20 reigns to Faf du Plessis.
De Villiers blossomed with the additional responsibility, even as concerns over a chronic back injury grew. He was relieved from keeping in shorter formats to concentrate on captaincy when Quinton de Kock was included in South African squad. By 2014, he had also handed the Test keeper's gloves to de Kock. That seemed a sensible decision because Smith retired in March that year and de Villiers was believed to be the natural successor. However, he was overlooked in favour of Amla.
That did nothing to dim de Villiers' resolve. He came back with even more striking power than before and in January 2015 broke the record for the fastest ODI century, reaching it in just 31 balls against West Indies at the Wanderers. That was the loudest warning cry he could have made for South Africa's chances at the 2015 World Cup, but it proved a false one. Despite inspirational leadership from de Villiers, who routinely called his team "the best" at the tournament, South Africa bowed out at semi-final stage.
The one stage de Villiers did not set alight was international T20 cricket, where he often found himself batting too low in the line-up and with not enough time to make an impact. He rectified that through the IPL, where he was one of the Royal Challengers Bangalore's most successful players. In a memorable match in the 2014 edition of the competition, de Villiers smacked his countryman Steyn for 23 runs in one over.
With de Villiers in high demand from foreign leagues, his workload became a talking point in the 2015-16 summer when he suggested he would have to look at ways to lighten the load. There were rumours of early retirement but those were quashed when he was asked to stand in as Test captain when Amla gave up the job mid-series against England. It was a job de Villiers had always wanted and accepted immediately. He was appointed permanent Test captain in January 2016.
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