Dewald 'AB 2.0' Brevis is charting his course to be South Africa's next big thing
He has something of a reputation, and with tips from de Villiers to guide him, the South African youngster could be on his way to great things
thought he had made the most of an opportunity to meet his hero when he asked for a selfie at a local restaurant, until this happened.
"AB (de Villiers)
came to our school. Schalk Engelbrecht (the 2021 South Africa schools captain), and I just ran to the room because we wanted to be near AB. We sat and listened to the most amazing stories and afterwards we walked out with AB. I took a chance and asked him for his number and he gave it to me."
And so began a not-very-publicised relationship between the most innovative batter South Africa has ever produced and his protégé, dubbed "AB 2.0" by some.
Brevis is a top-order batter who has gained a big reputation, thanks mainly to one standout performance in the CSA domestic T20 knockout competition. Brevis scored a 25-ball 46
, the top score in a total of 172, and tried to apply the mantra he had heard from another cricketing great. "I just thought of what Kevin Pietersen
said in an interview I heard: 'You must play the ball, even if it's a phenomenal bowler; just play the ball and don't look at the bowler. Play your own game," Brevis said.
No-one else in the squad could emulate that and the team went on to lose all the three matches they played. Brevis admitted they were "too frantic and too fearless", and overawed by the occasion. "Most of us have never played with TV cameras around us and there were so many at the tournament. It makes you a little tense," he said.
Despite the results, Brevis described the Under-19s participation in that competition as a "great learning curve", and felt that if they were to play in the competition now, four months on, "there would be a big difference in how we would perform". That could be because the team recently drew a series two-all with West Indies Under-19 and showed the resilience to take matches deep. Or because Brevis himself is used to playing above his station now.
"It's my dream to play for the Proteas but also to be seen as an allrounder. I bowl legspin and I want to work with that. And I also want to play in a T20 competition, especially the IPL. I love the IPL. My brother and I live for the IPL"
He was just 14 when he was picked for his school's first team and it's not just any school. It's the Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool (Affies), whose best-known former student is de Villiers. "It was a big thing for me to play for the Affies' first team because I was only in Grade 9," Brevis said. "Affies is a school that is very full of tradition. When you walk along those red walls and see the photographs of all the first teams, and pictures with people like AB and Faf du Plessis
in them, and some of the other big names, it's very inspiring."
But Brevis has managed to get more than just inspiration. Since his fanboy moment with de Villiers "at a restaurant in Pretoria called Culture Club where I asked him if we could take a picture together", de Villiers has become something of a mentor to Brevis. "During lockdown, I contacted him and I asked him for some advice and he always made time to reply to me," Brevis said. "I like the way he explains cricket. He keeps it simple."
The senior pro has provided Brevis with tips to adjust his approach, including "how to get your head in a better position when you are facing and keeping your both shoulders open", but those are mostly "small technical adjustments". The real gems come from the secrets of "developing a feeling for the game".
Perhaps it's actually about that feeling, because Brevis has grown up with cricket in his blood. "My first word was 'bal' (Afrikaans for ball)," he said. "I used to play cricket with my brother Raynard in the backyard. He always wanted to bowl and I always wanted to bat so it worked out well. My dream was always to play for South Africa."
He is slowly making his way there. Last year, in his final year of school, he was contracted to the Northerns provincial side "and it was amazing", but not all fun and games. "I sacrificed a lot for cricket. Thinking about my school years, I didn't go to any parties and I missed a lot of things."
Now, he is attending arguably the biggest party of them all: an Under-19 World Cup in the Caribbean. He will wear the Protea badge at age-group level and hopes to progress to the senior side, but that's not all. "It's my dream to play for the Proteas but also to be seen as an allrounder," he said. "I bowl legspin and I want to work with that. And I also want to play in a T20 competition, especially the IPL. I love the IPL. My brother and I live for the IPL."
No prizes for guessing who his team is. "It's RCB," Brevis said. "AB plays a big role but it's always because of players like Virat Kohli
If he continues to go the way he has, he may soon have the opportunity to meet Kohli too.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent