AB de Villiers is the life and soul of Royal Challengers Bangalore’s party. It took just one particularly devastating innings from Mr 360 to breathe life into their Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign.
Till ABD took the Delhi Daredevils bowling attack by the scruff of the neck on Saturday, his team was floundering at the penultimate spot in the table. By the time he had finished with the visitors’ bowlers, he had not only helped RCB hammer out an impressive win, but had also enabled them to zoom up to fifth in the league standings.
A bewildered visiting New Delhi journalist was so perplexed by the rousing reception De Villiers got on arrival to the crease that he wondered why he, rather than Virat Kohli, was being so vociferously cheered. “Don’t these locals know they have to cheer a local player instead of a foreigner,” he asked.
By late night even he realised that it was De Villiers who had struck a special chord with RCB fans. Each and every stroke of his was greeted in such a thunderous manner that it literally threatened to lift the roof off the stadium.
To say that De Villiers pulverised the Delhi attack would be an understatement. He demolished them. The gigantic sixes off Harshal Patel, Chris Morris, and Rahul Tewatia ruined more than just bowling figures. It left them defeated and drained.
The tall, pacy South African Morris was smashed high and mightily into the terrace stands while leg spinner Tewatia was brutally slog swept onto the stadium roof. Other massive sixes were deposited into the upper tiers as De Villiers went on a rampage during his unbeaten innings of 90 (39b, 10x4, 5x6; Strike rate 231!)
Rishab Pant, Delhi’s main scorer on the day, believed that batting became easier as the match progressed. Seeing De Villiers take a toll on the Delhi bowlers certainly gave that impression.
In fact, Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Mandeep Singh, who was batting with De Villiers when victory was achieved, said that his job was to just take a single and “sit back and enjoy De Villiers’ batting.”
Earlier, the big surprise for the teams was the copious amount of dew that fell as the game progressed. Pant believed it had a bearing on the outcome of the match.
“We thought we had a good total. But dew and De Villiers’ batting took the match away,” he said.
Indeed it was pretty unusual to experience the presence of dew at this time of the year. Early in the match, the pitch seemed to have some moisture left in it following Saturday evening’s heavy rains. The spinners, Yuzvendra Chahal, in particular, got a lot of purchase as the ball gripped and turned alarmingly. Delhi made a mere 58 for two in the first 10 overs as survival, rather than run rate, became paramount.
“In the second half of the innings dew-fall helped the pitch to quicken. It ensured that the ball would come on to the bat and facilitate strokeplay. The ball did not grip the surface and hence we could really hammer the bowling in the slog overs,” observed Pant, who made a superb 85 (48b, 4x6, 6x7; Strike rate 177).
De Villiers had no such problems. He needed to dictate terms immediately and chose to sweep left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem for a series of boundaries to set the tone.
For RCB, it was important that De Villiers found his bearings pretty fast. He is rare batting talent and is capable of putting the best of bowlers to the sword. As such a De Villiers in form could be a shot in the arm for RCB’s IPL campaign.
The best part of De Villiers’ batting is that he has a rich repertoire of strokes and is not scared to use them. He packs plenty of power and the best of bowlers could often be made to look thoroughly inadequate when he is on song.
Of course, it is not just brutal power that De Villiers brings into his pulls, sweeps, cuts and drives. There is precision, conviction and a sense of purpose in each of his shots. On Saturday, he also revelled in deft placements. The ramp up shot and late cut, both to the fence, actually came as a relief to bowlers who were being pounded into submission.
Indeed a De Villiers in full flow is not only a sight to behold for RCB fans, he epitomises their very hopes and aspirations. Other IPL teams and bowlers better be forewarned: De Villiers is in the house! Their nights are just about to get hotter and more uncomfortable.