Even the best players in the world get nervous. Just ask AB de Villiers who admitted to having sleepless nights in the build-up to his fantastic innings against England here at the World Twenty20.
De Villiers has no peer in the Test and ODI arena where he is ranked No1 in world across both formats due to him averaging 64 and 62.51 respectively since 2009.
However, his T20 international game has been off-colour for a period of time. The blond right-hander had not scored more than 39 not out in his last 25 T20 international innings prior to the England clash, with his average against the major nations hovering on under 20 with a fairly sedate strike-rate for this format of the game at 116.81. Hashim Amla – for all the criticism he gets for the pace at which he bats – has an overall strike-rate of 121.94.
Considering these statistics, the clouds start lifting on De Villiers’ uncertainty in the T20 format. “I’ve been sitting on the side for the last three games and not doing well. I’ve spent a few nights lying in bed, thinking about my batting and why it’s not going well. I was very motivated to help my team get over the line,” De Villiers said after his undefeated 28-ball 69 that set the Zahur Chowdhury Stadium alight on Saturday evening and propelled South Africa into the World T20 semi-finals for the first time since 2009.
De Villiers would also have reignited the heated debate over his best position in the Proteas batting line-up with the success he had at No3 on Saturday. However, again the statistics clarify that it was not merely the number on the scorecard that made the difference last Saturday, but the timing of De Villiers’ arrival at the crease that proved pivotal.
Proteas performance analyst Prasanna Agoram, who works with De Villiers at the Royal Challengers Bangalore too and can list Rafael Nadal as a previous client, has done extensive research on this matter, providing the team management with statistics that reveal the stand-in skipper averages 46 with a strike-rate of 183 when he comes to the crease after 10 overs, and a lowly 14 when he comes to the crease before 10 overs.
De Villiers explains further: “I’m not sure it’s about the position that I’m batting in, I came in after the 10th over, and that is what made the difference. The coaching staff enjoys me batting in those kinds of situations and that is probably why they are leaving me at four so that when I come in I can capitalise on the situation.”
For all the statistical data analysis and number crunching though, De Villiers said the primary motivation behind his innings was to help get his best friend and team skipper Faf du Plessis another chance at leading at the World T20, while also playing for the people of the Rainbow Nation back home.
“I was motivated to do well no matter what position I batted in and to build a good platform for the game. That was more of a reason for me to be motivated and make sure we go to the semis. I wanted to give Faf the opportunity to take the team further.
“It’s huge,” De Villiers said of the Proteas’ semi-final berth. “It’s a great honour and a brilliant achievement to represent your country in tournaments like this. It’s always great doing well and giving the people back home something to cheer about. We are excited to go to Dhaka and to play another good game of cricket. We want to go out there and give it our best shot, hopefully it will pull us through.”
UMPIRE ROD TUCKER APOLOGIES TO AB
Australian umpire Rod Tucker could have made a costly error when he mistakenly ruled that Albie Morkel had overstepped the front foot line in the second over of England’s chase. Considering that England’s dangerman Alex Had slapped the ball straight to JP Duminy at point added further insult to injury. Television replays indicated that Tucker’s call was incorrect, but De Villiers was willing to put the incident behind the Proteas.
“It happens, it’s part of the game,” De Villiers said. “I asked Rod to have a look upstairs but he said he’d already made the decision. I knew what the answer was going to be before I asked the question. I just wanted to waste a bit of time, slow things down because the boys were quite upset. These things happen in cricket, and we all make mistakes. He apologised afterwards which is always the sign of a good umpire, so no hard feelings and luckily it didn’t cost us the game.” - The Star