It has become a habit now. He has done it so often that it almost seems strange when he does not pull it off. AB de Villiers – the genius from South Africa and unarguably one of the two greatest batsmen of the new millennium – again produced a match-defining knock for the Challengers which ultimately was the difference between victory and defeat in a thrilling encounter in Ahmedabad. AB’s brilliant unbeaten 75 off just 42 deliveries against the Capitals ensured that RCB again moved to pole position with 5 wins from their first six matches.
AB came at number 5 with his team in a spot of bother at 60 for 3 in the 9th over. They had lost three of the four best batsmen – Kohli, Padikkal and Maxwell. Neither was the scoring rate any where close to satisfactory. AB realized the importance of his presence in the middle. He knew he had to take it deep and planned his innings beautifully. He let Rajat Patidar who was striking them well play aggressor in their crucial 54-run stand for the fourth wicket.
Having resurrected the innings, AB then stepped it up from the 15th over. From 21 off his first 20 deliveries, he accelerated and hammered 54 off his next 22 – the strike rate had risen from 105 to a staggering 245! He ended with a flourish blasting Marcus Stoinis for three sixes in the final over of the innings. RCB had scored 103 off the final 10 overs.
This is what AB has done throughout his career for the RCB – play the role of the destructive playmaker in the middle order. He has piled on the big runs at a very high strike rate – very few batsmen in the history of the league have been able to achieve this feat. In fact, only two others – David Warner and Chris Gayle have a batting average of above 40 and strike rate of in excess of 140.
Ideally, the best batsman in any side should bat in the top three positions but AB sacrificed that for the larger interest of the team given the top-heavy line-up of the RCB and what he can do for them in the middle order. He could have played the role of the anchor and batted with a degree of caution not taking the risks he takes with his audacious stroke-play – but that would not have served the purpose for RCB as skipper Virat Kohli assumed that role for the team. AB had to play the aggressor and such was the talent he possessed and such was the confidence he had in his abilities that only he could pull it off. And he did! Match after match, season after season.
AB has scored 204 runs in 5 innings for the RCB this year. His strike rate – a phenomenal 174.35 is higher even than the devastating Glenn Maxwell (145.75). In fact, for a minimum of 120 runs scored in IPL 2021, no batsman has a higher scoring rate than the great AB! This is why he is special and so dangerous. He can do things which no other batsman can do – not Chris Gayle, not David Warner and not even Virat Kohli! He consumes the minimum of resources and comes out with the maximum output.
48 off 27 deliveries in a two-wicket chase against the Mumbai Indians in the tournament opener, undefeated 76 off 34 deliveries taking RCB to above 200 in another win against the Knight Riders and another unbeaten 75 off 42 deliveries in yet another victory against the Delhi Capitals – three stunning performances which defined the outcome of the match for RCB this season. This is what makes AB a very high impact player.
What is remarkable is that AB has been able to play at this tempo consistently over the last 8-9 years. He has aggregated more than 300 runs in a season and scored at a rate of above 150 in 8 of the last 9 seasons – all editions since 2012 with the exception of 2017. That is a mind-boggling achievement!
It was a similar story in 2020. AB hammered five fifties in the edition – three of them at a strike rate of above 200 and one at a strike rate of 170 – RCB won all these 4 matches. He had recorded five fifties in 2019 too – three of them at a strike rate of above 170.
Overall, during the course of his innings against the Capitals on Tuesday, AB became only the sixth batsman in IPL history (and the second from overseas) to reach the milestone of 5000 runs. Not surprisingly, he was the quickest to reach the landmark leaving behind stalwarts like Warner, Raina, Rohit Sharma and King Kohli himself.
AB has an average of 41.08 and strike rate of 152.7 in the IPL – the highest amongst all batsmen with a minimum average of 30 in the league’s history. He is a more destructive batsman even than the Universe Boss – Chris Gayle (149.16)!
Just for perspective, Kohli has an average of 37.99 and a strike rate of just 130.61 in the coveted league and is considered an all-time great for RCB. AB has an average of 42.96 and strike rate of 160.1 for the same franchise.
What does this make AB then?