South Africa’s legacy in cricketing history is quite complicated. The good and the not-so-good parts are so closely intertwined that trying to pick up on one invariably leads to an unravelling of the other. Abraham Benjamin de Villiers’ name in this elaborate bequest is one that has added excitement, intrigue and anticipation that continues to rise with his appearance in every match.
Cricketers today have come to be differentiated on the basis of the formats they are suited to rather than their skill-set with the bat, ball or both. There are a plethora of players, with striking on-field individuality. However these ever-multiplying numbers do fall short, either because they aren’t able to balance out their game across the varied forms or because of their lack of willingness to commit to all formats equally.
A thorough exception to this trending status quo, de Villiers is thus quite a novelty. Not only is he an all-rounder in the truest sense of the term as far as the sport’s concerned, de Villiers is also an expert across varied sporting platforms. He’s then a product of not just his own inherence, but also of the times that surround and fuel the ever-increasing wants of cricket’s mainstream continuity. As such, de Villiers the man in vogue as far as contemporary cricket is concerned.
Much as it’s wondrous to watch de Villiers play full tilt, without losing concentration or his grasp of the match moments, somewhere it’s also not surprising to see him do so. And here’s where the curiousness of the South African cricketing history makes its presence felt.
The triumvirate of nations that principally govern cricket’s administration today are different to the troika of countries that have been majorly dominant on the field throughout. Australia is a common component with its influence broadened across both these horizons, but when it’s come to its superiority on the pitch, there have been several occasions when it has been bested by its African rival.
One could argue about the number of trophies the Australians have won over the course of time, especially correlating to the deficiency of World Cup titles in South Africa’s kitty vis-à-vis Australia’s bounty. One would be right too, for the glaring lack of World Cup titles does take away sheen from their imposing stature.
Quirkily though, it’s as though the South Africans’ continued consistency is an attempt by them to compensate for this fact. That by constantly pushing themselves to win, they want to shift attention from what they haven’t been able to accomplish towards what they are capable of, and what they have been achieving all this while.
Its chequered past in cricketdom aside, South Africa has never had a shortage of qualitative representation. Even when the nation was boycotted amongst the international cricketing circle on accounts of its Apartheid policy, to the time when it was mired in infamy and to when it began anew, trying to separate itself from the vestiges of ignominy, there’d never been a dearth of competent cricketers emerging from the country’s coffers.
The word that comes to mind to describe this constancy is adaptability. And de Villiers is not only living up to these established standards, but is also building upon it. In perspective the heights to which de Villiers has personally soared, taking his team along is also more like a showcasing of the proverbial version 2.0 of what’s expected from cricket and cricketers currently.
His being the fastest to score 8,000 runs in ODIs isn’t extraordinary for precisely this reason as when Sourav Ganguly achieved the same feat during his peak, it was nothing short of a milestone. As matter-of-fact as have been the other records he’s created, broken or levelled with until now.
Regardless of these accomplishments, there are however a couple of obvious catches.
When it comes to comparison of players across generations, the lapse of time governing the players’ circumstances and the changes in the game are conveniently overlooked. The constancy of evolution makes the sport, any sport for that matter, an absolute contradiction. Thus uplifting as these comparisons are, they also do a disservice to the players included in the context.
In case of de Villiers, such has been the repetitively describable theme. It has made him out to be a stand-out as it’s made him out to be a spectacle, whenever the situations have gone against him and his team. He’s been transformed to being a near super-hero from being an exceptional sportsman, though not without his fair share of faults well looped into the impeccability of his game.
Be as this may, setting store by South Africa’s dichotomous cricketing legacy and the invariable nature of indifference of cricket towards evolutionary alternations, time however does have a bind on de Villiers. Hard as it seems to think of him being indispensable currently, the latter facet of his career will impose itself on the former including him amongst the others before him, despite all the difference he’s made to present-day cricketdom.