I don’t often stray from the football field these days. In the past, I’ve written rugby World Cups; reported on England cricket tours, covered Olympics… but this twittered image outlining the achievements of South Africa’s cricket captain AB De Villiers has got me straying away from soccer.
Can one man REALLY achieve all that? Is this a massive wind-up?
His cricket credentials are NOT IN QUESTION. Abraham Benjamin De Villiers is 30 and is currently averaging 90 with the bat in Australia. Voted the world’s best One Day batsman by the ICC earlier this month, he tops the ODI rankings, is 2nd in Tests and just this morning he weighed in with another match winning knock at the fabulous Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The records are endless in all formats. Even South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma, absent from parliament for months, had time for this quote while at the G20 conference in Australia: “Mr de Villiers has done the country immensely proud with his sterling achievements and we wish him all the best going forward.”
He doesn’t just bat like a whirlwind. A couple of summers ago, AB took the gloves when Mark Boucher’s career was sadly curtailed; he’s a top class wicket keeper and averaged 56 while he was behind the stumps.
He also fields like Jonty Rhodes with a superb eye for a catch and a rocket-like throw … oh, and lately he’s been getting a couple of wickets with his dibbly-dobbler bowling. Yes, Jacques Kallis was a great all-rounder… but how many can bat, bowl, field and keep wicket?
But let’s move away from cricket. As a youngster, De Villiers showed prodigious talents in all fields. He recalls: "When I was 10 I decided I was going to do something in sport one day." Full details are hard to track down but it appears he is a phenomenon when it comes to tennis, badminton, swimming, golf, sprinting and, predictably, rugby.
|Just for kicks: AB takes on Dale Steyn|
A Manchester United fan – he still lists Cristiano Ronaldo as his favourite player – De Villiers was a useful football at primary school in Bela Bela (Warmbaths) and played at provincial (state or county) level as an Under 12. Some even suggest he was picked for a national junior squad.
Once a scratch golfer (which means he generally goes around the course in par) now playing off nine; AB was the ultimate sporting all-rounder at Pretoria’s sports factory, otherwise known as Affies.
When he wasn’t playing cricket with brothers far older than him, AB was on a tennis court. In his first competitive match, he beat future Davis Cup star Izak van der Merwe, and he was considered a real prospect until he gave up the racket for the bat aged 13.
As a pre-teen in Warmbaths he was offered a place at Nick Bollettieri’s Tennis Academy in Florida, but turned down the chance to join the likes of Andre Agassi and Maria Sharapova. Again, there are claims he was picked for South Africa’s “junior Davis Cup” squad. Incredible.
Hockey and rugby occupied his winters at Pretoria’s Afrikaans Skool for Boys. AB played provincial hockey before the rugby-mad staff persuaded him to join the odd-shaped ball religion and he was soon playing in the first XV at one of the top rugby schools in a nation known for the 15-man game. Again, he was offered a place at the Blue Bulls academy over the road. Again, he declined. But then wouldn't you?
Athletics wise, AB broke the local 100m record at junior level (Usain Bolt admitted the other day "AB is seriously fast across the ground") and, though I can find no independent verification, they say he STILL holds six national swimming records in a nation which has produced golden swimmers like Chad Le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh.
There’s more. Lots more. The story about receiving an award from the late great Nelson Mandela for a science project. And making a music album called Maak Jou Drome Waar (Make Your Dreams Come True) with singer-songwriter Ampie du Preez.
But that’s probably enough. The bloke excels on all fronts. Abraham Benjamin de Villiers: You are a legend.