What AB de Villiers really needs to succeed

2013-08-04 14:00

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Khanyiso Tshwaku shares his thoughts on what might be bugging the Proteas’ skipper

If the recent ODI series was a slugfest between Kumar Sangakkara and AB de Villiers, it would be a battle of  batting beauty that would please cricket’s cherubs.

But there was substance to Sanga’s style with his wilful bashing of a poor Proteas attack, while the heat of Colombo seemed to suck the energy from De Villiers’ bat.

To be fair to AB, though, this is the first series outside of the Champions Trophy where he’s gone into battle without Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, and the strain is showing.

De Villiers is a proven match-winner à la Michael Clarke, but in the absence of Smith and Kallis, being the go-to man with the bat as well as wicketkeeping might add undue pressure.

In series where either Smith or Kallis were around, AB was in the runs.

It was the New Zealand series, in which he admittedly played only one game, where the struggles emerged.

But keeping wicket and captaincy in ODIs worked well for Sangakkara and India’s MS Dhoni, who have taken their teams to dizzying heights – but then again, they play in sides where they are surrounded by class players, especially in familiar climes.

However, as Dhoni has found out, keeping in test matches is a different scenario, as the maximum time a wicketkeeper will spend on the field during an ODI is four hours.

In a test match, that duration can be tripled, which is why its understandable Sri Lanka use Prasanna Jayawardene for tests.

Like De Villiers, Sanga is a frontline batsman that the team looks to when they are in need of runs.

More often than not, he scores irrespective of surfaces, which makes him more valuable than Mahela Jayawardene, who is a flat-track bully.

Dhoni comes in at number seven, which gives him ample resting time if his batsmen front up.

The Sri Lanka tour was De Villiers’ first ODI assignment and unlike Smith, whose first ODI assignment was in Bangladesh, there was a platform on which he built the team around.

While De Villiers is a senior player, he has also been let down by the senior players around him.

Faf du Plessis, who made his name as a limited-overs player, has not hit the kind of heights in ODI cricket that he has in test matches.

Hashim Amla goes big once he has settled, but there is a haphazard tendency to his batting. JP Duminy is still battling to adjust to the demands of coming in at number three.

They are the fulcrum around which the South African ODI team will turn; but for De Villiers, like any captain, his success or failure will be determined by the contributions of his senior crew members.

AB de Villiers’ runs during captaincy in bilateral series

vs New Zealand (three-match series, away)

Runs: 146, HS: 106*, Avg: -*

vs England (five-match series, away)

Runs: 170, HS: 75, Avg: 56.66

vs Sri Lanka (five-match series, home) Runs: 329, HS: 125, Avg:109.66

vs New Zealand (three-match series, home)**

Runs: 7, HS: 7, Avg: 7

vs Pakistan (five-match series, home)

Runs: 367, HS: 128, Avg: 91.75

vs Sri Lanka (five-match series, away)

Runs: 137, HS: 51, Avg: 27.50

*Was not dismissed, hence no average could be calculated

** Played only one match in the series

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