Is AB de Villiers the Neymar of SA cricket?

2019-07-26 09:11
AB de Villiers (Gallo Images)

AB de Villiers (Gallo Images)

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For those who have better things to do (negotiate an even-handed peace in Sudan that takes into account political, religious and socio-economic factors? Or developing a five step program to de-escalate Sunni-Shiite tensions in the Gulf?) than watch cricket over the past few weeks, an amazing thing happened recently: Australia beat England.

This is remarkable, because until very recently England have been happily thrashing Australia with one hand tied behind their back, one eye gauged out and playing left handed (presumably it's been the right hand tied behind the back),

And how did this happen? Well David Warner and Steve Smith came back. 

Enthusiasts of the just-how-bad-can-Australian-cricket-get genre will clearly remember the humiliation of their cheating scandal in Cape Town, and resulting crying and suspensions.

Now even when Smith and Warner WERE playing, England had been whipping Australia on a regular basis for years. Just not with BOTH hands tied behind their backs. So Australia's triumph was, to say the leasty least, unusual.

Their return to the side transformed it.

A lot.

Which brings me to the subject of AB de Villiers.

This is an athlete so talented that he makes... er... I'm struggling to come up with an analogy that sufficiently expresses his talent. So let's just say that he is as talented as Jacques Kallis, who wasn't just brilliant at starring in emotionally stirring adverts for hair-replacement clinics.

The point is that De Villiers was desperately keen to un-retire himself and return to the side for the World Cup. And if Smith and Warner transformed their team, who knows what De Villiers could have done for ours?

The reality is that star performers not only do brilliant things that make teams win, they lift the players around them. Look at Barcelona when Messi is injured. Or at Real Madrid now that the guy with the great hair isn't playing for them anymore.

Yes, these players can be high-maintenance. Which is why De Villiers' badly-thought-out and admittedly arrogant request to play in the World Cup was denied. But Prima Donna's do that. And they can. Because they are that good. That's why people put up with them.

Neymar travels to every tournament or international match with an entourage of 30 people. And only nine of those seem to be hairdressers. When he recently returned to Brazil for tournament games, the Brazilian (no, not that) football association rented a 20 room villa / training complex for him. When he signed for Barcelona, they spent 300 000 euros bringing his friends and family to the press conference. 

And that was Barcelona. Who are a colossally successful club, and also boast (that's the wrong word to use for such a genuinely humble and non-Neymar man) the talents of Lionel Messi.

So considering that AB de Villiers' hairdressing requirements are considerably less onerous than a Neymar or Ronaldo, maybe we should consider giving him a break and letting him play again on his own terms. Because goodness knows that the South African cricket team could use a little boost. And terrific though Faf du Plessis' hair is, he cannot carry the team by himself.

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