"The ball cracks off AB de Villiers’ bat. There is no real hint of violence; just a marriage of beauty and brutality. De Villiers’ every shot, wondrously crisp and yet flying off his bat with alacrity, feels like a riposte to any who still deride T20 as slogging. The 40,000 at the ground intoxicated by his show are too mesmerised to think of such subtleties."

The above excerpt from 'Cricket 2.0: Inside the T20 Revolution' by Freddie Wilde and Tim Wigmore is about AB de Villiers and the absolute freak that the South African genius is. It couldn't have been about any other batsman. No modern-day batting prodigy - not Virat Kohli, not Steven Smith - has a better claim to the tag of a batting superstar in every sense of the word.

That in itself makes AB de Villiers an outlier. He has the fastest ODI century of all time off 31 balls. In Adelaide in 2012, he batted through 220 balls for just 33 runs to salvage a draw. A week later, he would blast the series-winning knock - a terrific 169. Three years later, in another Test in Delhi on a dustbowl, he battled India's spin contingent for 354 minutes to make 45 off a whopping 297 balls.

In T20 cricket, de Villiers is a sheer genius much like in every other format. In the Indian T20 League, he perhaps has enough claims for the best ever overseas recruit. In the Indian T20 League from 2015, the retired South African averages 49.74 and scores at a strike rate of 164. No player averaging 40+ in these five years have a strike rate of 150 or more.

Stopping de Villiers seems like an inconceivable task for any T20 team that's trying to win over his team. But before you assume he is a prey to only his own errors, here's a stat that might tickle your imagination.

De Villiers has been dismissed by the ball turning away from him 12 times in International T20s and 42 times in other T20s. The South African batting prodigy was exposed a bit by Krunal Pandya in the Indian T20 League when the left-arm spinner created a stir with the idea that his kind of bowling is good against de Villiers.

AB de Villiers in T20s other than Internationals:

Key Runs Balls Dismissals Balls/Dismissals Avg SR 4s 6s
Fast 744 441 14 31.50 53.1 168.7 57 46
Medium 3,098 1,936 70 27.66 44.3 160 280 147
Legbreak 817 606 23 26.35 35.5 134.8 51 35
Offbreak 656 452 13 34.77 50.5 145.1 45 31
Chinaman 119 73 2 36.50 59.5 163 7 5
Orthodox 879 635 19 33.42 46.3 138.4 66 34
Others 48 15 0 0.00 - 320 3 5
Total 6,361 4,158 141 29.49 45.1 153 509 303

While left-arm orthodox spinners have indeed had some kind of success against de Villiers, in terms of balls/dismissals, leg-spinners have had the most success. The retired Proteas batsman has been dismissed by leg-spinners six times in 126 balls in international T20Is (rate of a wicket every 21st ball) and 23 times in 606 balls in other T20s (rate of a wicket every 26th ball on an average). Both are the best dismissal rates for any kind of bowler against de Villiers.

AB de Villiers in T20 Internationals:

Bowler Type Runs Balls Dismissals Balls/Dismissal Avg SR 4s 6s
Fast 113 108 9 12.00 12.6 104.6 11 3
Medium 804 533 25 21.32 32.2 150.8 82 31
Legbreak 189 126 6 21.00 31.5 150 11 10
Offbreak 285 225 13 17.31 21.9 126.7 17 8
Chinaman 32 23 1 23.00 32 139.1 0 2
Left arm orthodox 249 222 6 37.00 41.5 112.2 19 6
Total 1,672 1,237 60 20.62 27.9 135.2 140 60


A notable, underrated spinner who has found success against him is Shreyas Gopal. The Rajasthan Royals wrist spinner has gotten rid of de Villiers four times off just 28 balls - a dismissal rate of seven! He has also managed to tie down de Villiers a tad as illustrated by the batsman's strike rate of 75 against him.

By his standards, his overall strike rate and dismissal rate isn't too impressive against balls turning away from him. This makes the South African batsman a legend with a minor chink in his armour. Can teams use it to contain this exceptional T20 cricketer?

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Manjunath Kiran

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