Just the other day, one of the greatest batsmen to ever wield the willow upped and left the stage. And I don’t know about you, but with every passing year, it becomes a little difficult to stay passionate about the game.
Back when I was in school and college, time itself was determined by the cricketing calendar.
December meant getting up early to watch the test matches in Australia, and June would mean staying up late to watch matches in the Caribbean. Boxing day in particular used to be a special treat because you could watch the match Down Under, and then switch to the match in South Africa.
One could spend, and I’m happy to plead guilty here, hours discussing cricket matches, their rhythm and their outcomes and the trials and tribulations they caused to us cricketing tragics.
People of a certain age will remember the fact that Sachin was in fact not out during the rain curtailed final of the 1996 tri-series in South Africa, or that six off Donald by Dravid. Sachin’s 136 in Chennai, Dravid’s 114 in Headingley, Sehwag’s 195 in Melbourne and many more bring forth instant recognition from cricketing aficionados. And Kolkata, of course. The one match that needs no number, year or player to describe it.
But over the years, cricket has become more ubiquitous, and in the bargain less memorable.
There is such a profusion of matches played over the world, and in so many formats, that each match becomes, in the grand scheme of things, less consequential. And maybe this is just a grumpy old man talking, but the players themselves – they don’t make ‘em like they used to. Of the ones that are playing today, Williamson and Kohli alone amount to true cricketing greats when it comes to batsmen.
And that’s what today’s column is about, because I would have had no hesitation whatsoever in including Abraham Benjamin de Villiers in that list.
Yes, he could hit the ball anywhere in the ground, and yes he could innovate better than the best of them, but far more importantly, he could Bat. And there are very few people playing the game today of whom one can say the same thing.
What exactly is Batting as opposed to batting? It is the ability to withstand, wear down and therefore win over bowling attacks, while also possessing at the same time the nous to take the fight to them (think back to the first innings in the first test of the recently concluded India South Africa series, for example). It is the ability to make a viewer’s heart melt with a cover drive. It is the ability to make gnarled old commentators grunt appreciatively while essaying a forward defensive. And so much more that can be felt, but can’t be told.
AB de Villiers possessed all this and more in spades.
And he was therefore an exalted member of an exalted, but also all but extinct tribe of batsmen who could Bat. But now he’s gone, and an already hollow sport has become hollower still.
Thank you for the memories, Sir. Well played.
He doesn't expect the paradox to be resolved in his lifetime
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