AB De Villiers announces sudden retirement from International cricket
The illustrious International career of one of the greatest batsmen of all time came to an abrupt end on Wednesday, when AB De Villiers announced his immediate retirement from all forms of International cricket. At 34 years of age, and having endured years of speculation about his playing future, the decision itself doesn’t come as a major surprise, though it's immediate nature will have caught many off guard.
De Villiers departure will leave a major hole in South African cricket, but more broadly it will impact cricket on a global scale. For almost 14 years, he has earned the admiration of his cricket public through his extraordinary talent and humble demeanour, and will be remembered as one of the world’s greatest ever batsmen.
A career snapshot
De Villiers’ career will end with some huge averages, testament to the dominance over world cricket he displayed for so many years. He played 114 Test matches, resulting in 8,765 runs at an average of 50.66, including 46 fifties and 22 hundreds, and a highest score of 278*. In his farewell video, De Villiers expressed a desire to finish up while he was still playing decent cricket, and his final series suggests he more than achieved this goal. Against Australia in March of this year, he scored 427 runs at an average of 71.2 in what were ultimately his last four test matches.
If his Test career was up there with the best of them, De Villiers’ ODI career might just be the greatest ever. He represented his country 228 times in the 50-over form of the game, and captained them for 103 of these. At the conclusion of these 228 games, he had compiled the ridiculous statistics of 9,577 runs at an average of 53.5 and a strike rate of 101.09, notching up 53 50’s and 25 100’s along the way. His ability to create strokes on the fly and adapt to whatever situation he found himself was second to none, and always made for compelling viewing.
The T20 format only entered the International arena later in De Villiers’ career, but he unsurprisingly demonstrated an ability to lift his game up a notch to suit the format. In 78 T20I’s, De Villiers averaged a moderate (by his standards) average of 26.12, but managed to score these runs at a strike rate of 135.16. He never scored an International century in this form of the game, but showcased his incredible ability on numerous occasions, including when he managed 71 off 29 against England in 2016 and 69* off 28 against the same team in 2014. In his final calendar year of T20I cricket (2017), he managed an average of 50.7 and a strike rate of 152, further evidence that he is finishing up with plenty left in the tank.
For many cricket lovers, including yours truly, AB De Villiers is the most talented batsmen they have ever been fortunate enough to witness. His prowess with bat in hand was other-wordly; at times it seemed like he was toying with some of the best bowler’s in the world, able to counter the best they could muster with any one of an array of strokes, some technically textbook, others seemingly made up on the spot.
When considering his extra-curricular exploits, none of that should come as a surprise. De Villiers was good enough at all three of golf, tennis and rugby to seriously consider pursuing them professionally. Fortunately for us, at age 16 he decided that cricket was his preferred option, and the cricketing world benefitted enormously from that decision.
He ends his career as South Africa’s fourth-highest Test run scorer of all time, their second-highest ODI scorer, and the owner of the fastest century in ODI cricket - it came off 31 balls. More importantly, however, he ends it as someone who redefined modern cricket; as arguably the best batsman we’ve ever seen across all three formats of the game, capable of turning his game style on its head to suit the occasion in which he found himself. His absence will be sorely felt by South Africa and the global cricketing community as a whole, though if he follows the lead of most retirees of recent years, he might not be done just yet. Domestic T20 is calling.