Not a long ago, AB de Villiers was ripping apart bowlers in 2018 Indian Premier League (IPL). On Wednesday though, he dropped a bombshell on the cricketing world by calling it a day in international cricket.
The ouster of one of the modern-day greats with the bat has shocked the world as he was expected to play till the 2019 ODI World Cup. His sudden retirement has helped us learn that champions too get 'tired' as told by de Villiers in the video he posted on social media to inform his fans about his 'big' decision.
"I want to let you know that I've decided to retire from all international cricket with immediate effect. After 114 Test matches, 228 one-day internationals, 78 T20 internationals, it is time for others to take over. I've had my turn, and to be honest, I'm tired," de Villiers said in the video.
While the emotions mat require some time to settle, the best way to come out of the shock it to immerse in the nostalgia and go back to five best international knocks de Villiers has played in his career.
278 against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi Test in 2010:
UAE had just become Pakistan's new 'home' after international cricket was banned in Pakistan after the 2009 Terror attack on Sri Lankan team. South Africa were touring UAE for the first time and not many knew how the pitch would play and the what conditions would turn out to be. All such notions did not trouble de Villiers. In the first Test, he failed in the first innings, making a miser 5 and did not get the opportunity to bat in the second innings. Then came the second match and de Villiers' best score in Test cricket. It was not the best of starts for South Africa in this Test. They were 3 for 33 inside 12 overs when de Villiers walked out at the crease, determined to make a mark and convert the good start into a big score. With Jacques Kallis, he put on 179 runs for the fourth wicket to take the visitors out of trouble and then weaved small partnerships with late middle-order and tail to put South Africa in driver's seat. By the time Smith declared the innings, de Villiers had amassed 278 off 418 balls in the middle and was in a touching distance from a fitting triple hundred. Alas, that moment never saw the light of the day. Yet, the innings stands tall as one of his best in Test cricket and also his highest score in the longest format.
217 against India in Ahmedabad Test in 2008:
This was the second match on this tour and the first match was a draw. From personal point of view, de Villiers had not had a great start in the Test series, scoring 44 and 11 in the two innings of first Test at Chennai. The fact that he had scored only two hundreds in the last 53 innings made him even more hungry for a big score and despite getting good starts, he was not able to convert them into three figures. Here, South Afrca got off to a great start but soon after the first wicket fell on 70-odd, the duo of Harbhajan Singh and Sreesanth ripped apart the top order and brought the score to 117 for four. The stage was set for de Villiers and like any champion batsman, he saw a good opportunity to get to a big score. He took a little time to adjust to the conditions and when the ball started coming on to his bat, there was no stopping the 34-year-old as he returned unbeaten with score of 217 in 333 balls. What is to be remembered is that this was the same pitch where India were bowled out for a meager 70 runs in the first innings. In the second innings, they could bolster just 328, losing the match by an innings and 90 runs.
33 against Australia in Adelaide Test in 2012:
Generally, the best innings in a batsman's career reflects his centuries and double-centuries AB de Villiers stands as an exception here. His 33-run knock stands tall among all his centuries and double-centuries for a fact that this innings came off 220 balls and a time when the runs were less important than the every second that passed by. South Africa had drawn the first Test and were very close to going down in the second Test at Adelaide Oval as they were 4 for 45, chasing 430 runs and there was still almost one and a half days' of play left. Faf du Plessis and de Villiers — two of the most devastating batsmen in world cricket at that time — were to play the most grueling Test innings of their lives. If a snail marches on to cover the entire world when this partnership began, it would have covered half of it by the time de Villiers got out. He played out 220 balls and scored 33 runs. On the other end, Faf ended up playing 376 balls for his 110. His strike rate of 29.25 was still better than that of de Villiers', who played the knock at a strike rate of 15. Nobody would have guessed that three years down the line, this batsman will end up scoring the fastest century of all time in ODI cricket. South Africa were able to save this Test and went on to win the third Test and the Test series.
149 off 44 balls in 2nd ODI vs West Indies at Johannesburg in 2015:
Insanity has no definition. It cannot be described in one word. However, if you ask West Indies to define it, they might narrate the innings of de Villiers in Johannesburg in 2015. On 19 January 2015, West Indies committed one of the worst decisions of his life — they won the toss and invited South Africa to bat first. The decision turned out to be insane when openers Rilee Rossouw (128 off 115)and Hashim Amla (153 off 128) started pelting bowlers all over the park. When Jerome Taylor got rid off Rossouw, West Indies celebrated and took a big sigh of relief. Insanity had come to an end, they thought. Never in the history of international cricket was a team so wrong as de Villiers walked out to bat after the fall of the first wicket. To put the innings in a brief manner, de Villiers came out to bat in the 39th over and went back in the 50th over and he had 149 runs written against his name. In between these overs, many records went for a toss, the important one being the fastest ODI century which came off just 31 balls.
162 off 66 balls vs West Indies at Sydney in 2015:
West Indies had no idea that the de Villiers storm will return to blow them away so soon after the Johannesburg carnage. It was the 19th match of the all-important World Cup. South Africa had won the toss and elected to bat first. West Indies drew first blood early but yet again du Plessis and Amla took the team to a great start. South Africa lost the third wicket on 146 in the 30th over. Things were under West Indies' control when de Villiers walked in. He smashed 8 sixes and 17 fours on his way to unbeaten 66-ball 162, taking South Africa to 408 for 5 at the end of 50 overs. It remains one of the best ODI innings ever as he also smashed the second fastest century in ODI World Cup history.