Where should AB de Villiers bat? South Africa use him in the middle order at present in limited-overs cricket and Royal Challengers Bangalore had him at No. 4 and 5 for the first four matches of this IPL season. De Villiers made 28, 46, 41 and 14 in those innings, scoring at a high strike-rate, making use of the limited opportunity. Royal Challengers won only one of those games, though, and then promoted de Villiers to No. 3. He's had scores of 47*, 57, 2, 21, 47* and 133* since, and Royal Challengers lost only one of the next seven games.
"I have always wanted to play at the top of the order," de Villiers told iplt20.com after his century in Mumbai led Royal Challengers to a 39-run win. "From the day I started playing T20 cricket I always wanted to bat in the top three and I am very thankful for the fact that Royal Challengers Bangalore has given me the chance to bat at three now."
De Villiers joined Virat Kohli at the Wankhede with Royal Challengers on 20 for 1 in 3.1 overs, having lost Chris Gayle. They went on to have an unbeaten 215-run stand, de Villiers making 133 off 59 balls. The standout feature of his innings was that he hit only four sixes and yet finished with a strike-rate of 225.
"I won't say this is the best I have played, I have played much better before but things went my way today," de Villiers said. "I tried to stick to my game plan as much as possible. I tried to keep it simple and that is what I did right throughout my innings."
De Villiers was able to toy with the opposition, altering lengths and lines by moving forward, back and across in his crease. He then deployed a range of strokes, picking out gaps in the outfield at will.
"I have played the game for a long time now and most batsmen will tell you that it comes with experience," he said about his ability to hit the ball to all parts of the ground. "Yes, maybe back in the day all the other sports other than cricket that I played helped me to put some of those skills in my cricket. But I have played the game for eleven years now in the international level. I know my game pretty well and that is the secret to success in most sports. I just try and earn my right to get on top of the bowlers and that is how I play every game."
De Villiers' innings drew praise from all corners of the cricket world, and Chennai Super Kings and New Zealand opener Brendon McCullum said he was "playing a different game than the rest of us."
"He is a freak of nature but he is so humble as well," McCullum said. "When speaking after the game he just deflected the praise to everyone else. He is not only a fantastic cricketer but an absolute legend bloke as well."
When asked what skill of de Villiers' he would like to have, McCullum said it was his balance at the crease. "Jeez, it is pretty hard to pick one. He can hit it all around the park. He has tremendous balance at the crease. Anyone who can access the areas of the field that he can and with the power he can has got to have very good eyes. But I think his balance is one thing that allows him to be as strong as he is all around the wicket. So, if I could steal one thing from him, it would be his balance while batting."
David Warner, Australia and Sunrisers Hyderabad opener, said on Twitter that de Villiers was "the best batter in world cricket."
"That is a fantastic compliment from a great player himself," de Villiers said in response to Warner's tribute. "I am at top of the game at the moment but I know this game knocks you down very quickly. I try and keep my feet on the ground and keep working at my game. I know you are only as good as your last game. I am already thinking of my next performance and I have moved on from what happened today."