South African great AB de Villiers' decision to call it quits from international cricket has come as a huge surprise. At 34, the general feeling was that the dashing batsman had plenty of cricket left in him. But ABD has played the game on his own terms and the genial star feels this is the right time to go out on a high.
He returned to the South African Test side and played a key role in the hosts' series wins over India and Australia earlier in the year. His last campaign for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) ended in disappointment as despite his best efforts the Virat Kohli-led franchise failed to make it to the play-offs.
It is interesting that the former South African captain has cited tiredness for his retirement. De Villiers said he did not want to pick and choose matches for South Africa any longer. He had kept himself out of the Test team in the past to prolong his international career and focus more on the shorter formats of the game. Cricket fans as well as experts expected de Villiers to play a lead role in South Africa's challenge at the World Cup next summer in England and Wales.
De Villiers was the complete entertainer, one whom crowds world over loved to watch. There was seldom a dull moment when he was out there in the middle. He was the 360-degree player, a batsman who could disrupt the rhythm of the best of bowlers as his South African teammate and pace spearhead Dale Steyn found out while playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad in a 2014 IPL game against RCB.
He had all the strokes in his repertoire, could use the depth of the crease to great effect and was never afraid to put the pressure right back on the bowlers and the opposition captain.
ABD was an athlete par excellence and there was nothing he could not do on a cricket field. One of the greatest batsmen of the modern era, he could keep wickets, was simply sensational with his fielding, and even roll his arm over when the situation demanded! De Villiers' versatility was a hardly a surprise for he was fairly good at golf, rugby and tennis in his early days. Though social media and Internet took his multi-skill to another level and wrongly attributed many records to him, the man himself dispelled the myths in his 2016 book AB: The Autobiography!
The world record holder for both the fastest One-Day International hundred (31 balls) and fifty (16 balls) could not earn a World Cup winner's medal. But in his retirement video, de Villiers was the picture of a contented man. He has always been a modest man, one who played the game in the right spirit and a true role model.
Even in his retirement, de Villiers has been selfless and made it clear that there is no craving to earn more money or play overseas in the lucrative T20 leagues. Instead, he will continue to play for Titans in the domestic competition.
The world would be a greater place if there are more champions like him. But it is precisely for this reason that he has been such a rare gem. Adieu, entertainer!