South African captain AB de Villiers during the press conference at The Oval on Saturday. Photo: Reuters
South African captain AB de Villiers during the press conference at The Oval on Saturday. Photo: Reuters
Virat Kohli is a teammate of AB de Villiers at the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL. Photo: Reuters
Virat Kohli is a teammate of AB de Villiers at the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL. Photo: Reuters

LONDON – “On his day, in the mood, it doesn’t matter about what he’s done in the past. You have to find a way to get him out very quickly,” said one captain of another ahead of India and South Africa’s Champions Trophy eliminator today.

The leading lights in question, AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli, are two of the finest players ever to pick up a cricket bat, and saw fit to use it as a brutally efficient weapon of entertainment and destruction.

On their day, the world stops and wonders just where to bowl next, as balls are flicked, caressed, tickled and bashed to every nook and cranny of a cricket field.

The sounds that emanate from each at the crease are the stuff of regal artillery; uncompromising gunshots that whistle past fielders turned fetchers.

“I just love the way he plays the game, he is competitive. That’s the way I like to play, too”, said the other of the former.

Though borders and upbringing, culture and climate, and considerably much else separate them, cricket – and their brilliance at it – has brought them closer together than they could ever have imagined.

They are now teammates on an annual basis, share scores of sponsors, millions of fans, and are consistently in the conversation for best in the world.

That bromance will be tested at The Oval, though, when both men look to lift their nations to new heights and, more urgently, into the final four of the Champions Trophy on Sunday (11.30am SA time start).

It would be crass, distasteful even, to suggest that such a richly-decorated cast list is about just two players.

AB de Villiers will look to shake off his first-baller from the Pakistan game. Photo: Reuters


There is so much talent across the 30 names in both squads. Most of them, be it a Dhawan or a De Kock, a Rabada or a Ravi Ashwin, they have all won games with their individual prowess.

There is sentiment within these individuals, too.

Yuvraj Singh will play his 300th one-day international despite being at death’s door not that long ago. Perish the thought of him in the death overs, when he looks to bring Indian totals back to life.

Andile Phehlukwayo – an option at the death – will make his senior ICC tournament bow against and alongside men he used to idolise as a schoolboy, gasping at the sight of the Indian blaster smashing six consecutive sixes at the Kingsmead he now calls home.

Back in 2011, when Yuvraj was undergoing chemotherapy for a cancerous tumour, Phehlukwayo was still in school uniform, and showing potential that could not be contained.

Virat Kohli is the big wicket in the Indian batting line-up. Photo: Reuters


Now they will meet in England, the nation which introduced cricket to the world, in just one of a myriad of mini-battles that could prove telling.

Of course, the world loves a headlining double-act, and they’ve decreed that De Villiers vs Kohli is the most apt.

The two could have finished each others’ sentences at their respective press calls ahead of the game, such is their mutual admiration. In fact, attributing certain quotes is futile, because they both sing from the same hymn sheet.

Their familiarity is matched only by their individual ambition to lead their nations to the top of the pile.

At The Oval on Super Sunday, these batting bosom buddies will put the bromance on hold as each looks to snuff out the other’s tournament before the knockout stages.

Likely Teams

South Africa: Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (captain), JP Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Morné Morkel, Imran Tahir.

India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Kedar Jadhav, Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah.

Sunday Tribune

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