Photo by Sarah Ansell
There’s only so many times you can hear how wonderful something is before you want to hit it with a hammer or push it down a flight of stairs at the luxury five-star hotel at which it’s staying ahead of its team’s first match at the World T20.
However, this urge should be resisted. Generally speaking, it’s not the thing itself which is so objectionable – it’s the almost mindless adulation it receives. Also, why would it be using the stairs rather than the lift? Maybe it was a schoolboy stair ascending and descending champion and wants to keep its eye in. Who knows?
Anyway, should the mindless wish to gain a mind, Cricinfo’s S Rajesh has dug out a few stats about how AB de Villiers performs in T20 internationals. Turns out he has the fifth-lowest average among top five batsmen to have scored more than 750 runs.
It’s not totally damning, but it’s a nice thing to set against all the unquestioning worship, especially considering all the talk about how he supposedly epitomises the modern game.
Maybe he does. All anyone remembers are the days when he comes off – they forget all the frenetic failures. What could be more reflective of the contemporary cricket landscape than that?
Perhaps AB de Villiers wants his cake-eating window so that he can get in a bit more practice in his weakest format.
Photo by Sarah Ansell
AB de Villiers wants to retain The Cake of International Cricket and also eat The Lucrative Cake of T20 Franchise Cricket. It doesn’t sound so ludicrous an ambition until you examine the bizarre cake-for-cake barter system that is currently in operation.
Under current law, The Lucrative Cake of T20 Franchise Cricket can only be acquired in full by trading in The Cake of International Cricket. ‘Up with this I will not put,’ says De Villiers. ‘This will not stand‘.
That’s the way we’re reading the recent comments of South Africa’s new Test captain anyway. He says Test cricket is “the main format” and that his focus is on international cricket – but he also says he’s playing too much cricket and that he “cannot ignore” some of the “big tournaments going on around the world at the moment.”
We’re absolutely in agreement that there is too much international cricket, but all his talk of needing a break could be a bit misleading. We suspect that what he actually wants is a whole wall of double-glazed windows in international cricket which would allow him to take part in the IPL, the Big Bash, The Caribbean Premier League and whatever else might pay well.
He wants to gorge on the The Lucrative Cake of T20 Franchise Cricket and then return to the still intact Cake of International Cricket, safe in the knowledge he isn’t missing out on anything.
He wants a cake-eating window.
Photo by Sarah Ansell
We were going to do a half-arsed box-ticking update today, pointing you towards Cricket Badger and our latest Cricinfo Twitter round-up, but the latter seems in no hurry to appear, so we thought we’d better write summat.
Let’s talk about AB de Villiers, who despite being a vehement letter-C denier has gained a (c) for this series at least. Will he make a decent captain? People generally seem to think he’s the best man for the job. This is faintly surprising to us because we’ve got a vague and distant memory of de Villiers being described as something other than razor-sharp.
Perhaps it’s a false memory. Perhaps it was just a joke that took on an exaggerated form inside our head where de Villiers was so dense you actually wanted to strike him for his relentlessly frustrating lack of comprehension.
Either way, it’s a total myth that he’s great at everything.
After day-night Tests, the latest innovation in the ongoing Australia v New Zealand Test series has been additional opponents. Sri Lanka and the West Indies have been drafted in to keep things fresh, but they couldn’t tip the balance. Australia still had marginally the better day.
New Zealand would have felt confident of finishing the first day in the ascendancy after making 409-8. That is a lot of runs to make on any day of a Test match, let alone the first. However, Australia struck back with 438-3 and it’s hard to see how the Kiwis can haul things back from there.
AB de Villiers’ new hobby
Cricinfo reports that vehement letter-C denier, AB de Villiers, will ‘keep wickets’ for the first two Tests against England – although they do not specify how many. It is a little-known fact, but keeping and raising wickets is de Villiers’ new pastime. He says it helps him get away from the game and relax and he’s looking to become a professional breeder when he retires. De Villiers was of course a schoolboy wicket-breeding champion.
There are also rumours that as well as becoming a wicketskeeper, he might fill-in as wicketkeeper. This may seem a strange decision, but it could be a quota thing. Clearly, you always want at least one AB de Villiers in your side – that’s not the issue. It’s more that de Villiers’ selection as keeper may be a means of allowing other players to be picked.
It strikes us that Imran Tahir has been dropped and if Tahir is out, maybe someone else has to come in. Assuming the first-choice seam attack for the first two Tests will comprise Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Kyle Abbott, South Africa presumably need to bring in a batsman to ‘balance the side’.
Vernon Philander’s due to return for the third Test, incidentally.
Cricket needs jeopardy. Jeopardy makes things exciting.
You have jeopardy in a tournament – the chance of being knocked out – and lo, the match is exciting. Something is riding on it. Tension’s good.
You have jeopardy in an innings – the chance of being bowled out – and you get the same benefits.
It’s a pretty basic rule. It’s the difference between having the action play out on this bridge and having it play out on this bridge.
Cricket is always best when wickets win a match. Test cricket is about taking 20 wickets and Test cricket’s best – but one-day cricket can also have its moments. That sense of jeopardy adds a whole extra dimension to proceedings, as we saw today.
Even AB de Villiers couldn’t save South Africa. His team again proved that other than he and Amla, they’re something of a fairweather batting side. For their part, Pakistan again proved that having two bowling attacks banned and another one injured need be no barrier to success.
But if Pakistan were the real winners, that oh-so-out-of-form side ‘cricket’ also earned a rare victory. Twenty20 is too short for wickets to be of any real concern. Surely here was proof that 50-over cricket’s niche is as a form of the game where they are at least meaningful?
This appears to be South Africa’s thinking after picking only four proper bowlers. It should present a vulnerability, but when you then make 408, you find you have a certain amount of breathing space – perhaps even enough that you could field Jade Dernbach and still harbour reasonable hopes of victory.
AB de Villiers’ 66-ball 162 is only the latest ‘whaaat?’ innings of this World Cup. They’ve all been striking efforts, but we suspect the novelty will wear off. A lot of matches seem to be less about how many a team can score and more about to what extent they can cash in.
It’s not the same thing. The computer game analogy is being used a lot of late but it’s apposite here. This World Cup is being played on ‘novice’ with teams looking to hit ever more humungous scores. It’s not a true challenge. It’s just doing as much damage as possible when the going’s easy.
We’ve not had too many close contests in the tournament and a lot of games have been all but decided when one team has ‘gone big’. It almost seems to be the case that if a batsman gets going in the last 10 overs, there’s nothing that can be done and the match is basically over.
Hopefully we’ll get some matches where both sides cash in and we can have a little bit of tension for once. While big innings are a feature, competition is the bedrock on which sport is built.
Back in November 2012, AB de Villiers made 33 off 220 balls so that South Africa could save a Test against Australia. In March last year, against the same opposition, he made 43 off 228 balls, but this time South Africa lost.
Today it took him all of 31 balls to make a hundred. Only six didn’t go to the boundary. After that, he sped up.
If these extremes are impressive, consider what’s in-between. If you can block with the best of them and also slog with the best of them, your main challenge is deciding precisely how to defy the opposition.
We’re probably in mandatory handicapping territory here. AB de Villiers should be made to bat with the broken-off handle of a 1970s tennis racquet after downing three pints of Moonraker with a peeved ocelot strapped to his back. If we can persuade him to play like that for the next decade or so, either his Test or one-day average might just drop down into the forties. Not both though. That would be a bit optimistic.
Individual statistical achievements in cricket don’t always tally with ability, so it’s pleasing when a good player is rewarded. However, for every 11-60 recorded by a Dale Steyn, there’s a world record number of dismissals for an AB de Villiers.
Now AB de Villiers is great at many things. He can bat, he can play tennis, he can slap back and he can deny the existence of the letter C. However, he isn’t a wicketkeeper.
Technically, that’s completely wrong. He has a pair of gloves and he gets that dagger typography next to his name, but come on – he’s a batsman. He can catch and jump around, but being a wicketkeeper is about so much more than that. It’s about having a tatty hat and hanging tea bags on nails so that they can be reused. In short, it’s about being Jack Russell.
Technically, Jack Russell still holds the world record for most dismissals by a wicketkeeper in a Test match, only now he shares it. No-one likes sharing – particularly when they’re an only child, like we are.
Sharing is not good. If you share, you have less of the whole. Jack Russell has been fractionally diminished and he probably feels much the same way we did when John took the nose off the final slice of our pizza back in Llangollen in 1998.
The nose! Of the final slice! Poor Jack Russell.
The big names are generally old bastards. Who’s next?
Ross Taylor, New Zealand, age 25
Ross Taylor tends to look like he’s the man who’s going to win the match for New Zealand shortly before doing something slightly spacky. Pretty soon those fifties will become hundreds and those hundreds will become double hundreds.
JP Duminy, South Africa, 25
Duminy has barely started in Test cricket, but has the reassuring habit of being exceptional whatever the format. Twenty20’s just for sloggers, is it? Then why is Duminy so effective. The best batsmen are generally the best batsmen in all forms of the game.
AB de Villiers, South Africa, 25
Yes, he is only 25. There are already bowlers in world cricket who’d sooner try and insert a bat handle into their urethra than bowl at vehement letter-C denier, AB de Villiers.
Michael Clarke, Australia, 28
Recently voted ‘most overrated player’ by readers of the Herald Sun, Michael Clarke must be rated really, really, phenomenally highly. Quite clearly following in the footsteps of Border, Waugh and Ponting as an Aussie captain who’s mint with the bat.
Gautam Gambhir, India, 28
Test average after 18 Tests: 36, with one hundred. Test average in the next nine Tests: 94, with seven hundreds. Gautam Gambhir is up and running.
You all thought that AB de Villiers was ace at everything. He isn’t.
Roscoe drew our attention to Show Them Who You Are, a single on which AB sings and plays guitar. Roscoe rather generously gave it 1/10.
Apparently someone phoned up a South African radio station to tell them that the single made them feel proud to be South African. We asked Roscoe if the song made him proud to be South African.
“Nah, the song is pretty lame. It’s like a poor version of Bon Jovi, only with weird, South African/Australian pronunciation of words. I feel the opposite of proud. I feel ashamed that someone let him get away with lyrics that sound like they were written by Oprah. Maybe the producers were too busy guffawing into their hands to object. Either that or he signed autographs to make them stop laughing.”
He goes on to say that he’s a little bitter that AB’s band will get more airplay than his, so maybe you could listen to some of Roscoe’s music to balance things out a bit.
“I love cricket and I continue to play it at club level. I’m a left arm medium-fast bowler and I come in at number six with a few big shots. I’m also a musician and I continue to play rock music at (night)club level. I’m a right hand lead guitar/singer and I come in at about 11pm to down a few big shots of Jack Daniels.”
Roscoe did try to get an interview with the guy who co-wrote the song with AB, but said it was for King Cricket so never really got an answer. That’s the power of this website right there, people.