Cape Town – Big-event player? Oh, you bet.
AB de Villiers‘s record in three World Cups is the stuff that would have sent a shiver down the spines of most opponents of South Africa at next year‘s World Cup in England and Wales.
Would have, would have …
As we now know, the globally feted, scorching stroke-player quit all forms of international cricket on Wednesday.
The most devastating aspect of that unexpected revelation, of course, was that De Villiers now misses out on what many believed would be his appropriate swansong late next May, that very CWC 2019.
Bookies have been quick to slightly downgrade now at an event that has always been a massive bogey for them, and that‘s inevitable considering the array of qualities De Villiers would have brought to it.
Some wags – and even a few familiar pundits – on social media have, perhaps more in hope than expectation, speculated that the player might yet “come out of retirement” in time for a fourth personal crack at the tournament.
Naturally that seems a long shot, as things stand.
But what is much more certain, based on statistical evidence, is that De Villiers is spectacularly at home at World Cups: he has represented the Proteas in three (2007, 2011 and 2015).
His numbers specifically in that tournament only show what a void he leaves, as they are even more stellar than his general ODI ones, where he boasts 9 577 runs at 53.50 and a strike rate of 101.
In World Cups, De Villiers has amassed 1 207 runs at a dizzying 63.52 (strike rate 117).
Clearly relishing the biggest stage of them all in one-dayers, all three CWCs have seen the now 34-year-old produce some devastating performances.
At his maiden one in 2007, in the Caribbean, De Villiers is remembered mostly for his mature – considering his still relatively youthful status at the time – knock of 92 against eventual champions Australia at St Kitts, plus his bludgeoning 146 off 130 balls against hosts the West Indies.
When the action shifted to the Subcontinent for the 2011 jamboree, the Titans star lit it up with such innings as another century (107 not out) against the Windies, at Delhi, and 134 against the bruised Netherlands minnows at Mohali.
But he was perhaps even better from a consistency point of view when he led the Proteas at the 2015 World Cup (hosted by Australia and New Zealand).
There, he once again thrashed the West Indies’ attack about the park (162 not out at Sydney), while his last three knocks – they will probably also go down now as his last in any World Cup – saw him amass 77 against Pakistan, 99 against the United Arab Emirates and 65 not out in the heart-breaking, narrow loss to the Black Caps in a dramatic Auckland semi-final.
Some consolation, in a sense, for those Proteas supporters ruing his absence from CWC 2019 is that De Villiers seldom sparkled – at least by his lofty standards – as an ODI batsman on English soil.
In 20 appearances on that turf (against England and others) he registered 507 runs at an average well down on either his World Cup or career ones: 31.68.
His best knock was 75 not out against England at Trent Bridge in 2012, and he had a rough time in South Africa‘s last ODI activity in that country: the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy where they blew out before the knockout phase.
De Villiers, then the skipper, got four against Sri Lanka, nought against Pakistan and 16 against India.
Yet who would too confidently venture that he wouldn‘t have been capable of dramatically ending his English-soil mediocrity in the environment he so craves, the World Cup?
Sadly that is a matter only for conjecture …
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