AB’s back... and battling T20I ‘demons’

AB de Villiers (Gallo Images)
AB de Villiers (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Amidst the understandable hype generated by his return to Proteas combat against Sri Lanka on Wednesday night, perhaps people forget that it is in the arena AB de Villiers has been conspicuously less successful at.

Or at least, it is the international format - Twenty20 - that falls a long way short of his indisputable brilliance in Tests and ODIs.

Fit-again De Villiers, who returns after no highest-level activity since June 24 last year, has batted in all of the top six slots in the T20 environment, and over the course of 71 matches for South Africa, but never really delivered the kind of returns his ability so obviously suggests he could.

Abundantly talented, attack-minded and gloriously improvisational and audacious in his stroke-play, it seems so bizarre that De Villiers will take to the field for the series decider at Newlands with an average of only 23.58 (1 368 runs, strike rate 131.91).

He has never come seriously close to a T20 century for SA, with a top score of 79 not out against minnows Scotland.

That looks even more at odds with his short-form potential when you consider how much of a thrill factor he traditionally is in the Indian Premier League, where he has been responsible for two of the top five highest innings in the tournament’s history - his 133 not out in 2015 and unbeaten 129 last year, both for Royal Challengers Bangalore, occupy berths three and four in that prestigious pecking order.

In India, De Villiers and Virat Kohli are often compared for their bums-on-seats appeal and chutzpah at the crease, and in both Tests and ODIs the former is a whisker in front of the latter statistically.

De Villiers averages 50.46 in the five-day landscape to Kohli’s current 50.10, and in ODIs the South African stands at 53.63 and a strike rate of 99.87 to the Indian star’s 53.11 and strike rate 90.76.

But it is a strange, rather glaring no-contest when it comes to T20 internationals, where Kohli dazzles (average a quite sublime 57.13) and De Villiers, as already mentioned, flatters to deceive.

Kohli has notched more runs (1 657) from 45 caps than De Villiers (1 368) has from 26 more appearances.

De Villiers’s perplexing inability to be a consistent dominator for the Proteas at T20 level spills over into the modesty of his achievements at Newlands specifically.

Whilst his ODI record at the venue is almost parallel to his wonderful, 50-plus career average overall, in T20 clashes he has not yet breached the 20-mark in an innings.

At Newlands, De Villiers’s scores for his country, from most recent, are seven against England (last season), 13 against Pakistan, 18 against England and 14 not out against Bangladesh.

Could this much-trumpeted comeback in Proteas colours also be the turning of a new leaf for him?

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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