As South African cricketers delivered a thorough trashing to Indian bowlers on the final on Sunday, there were a few things that stood out.
One, that Indian bowlers seemed hapless under pressure. A fast bowler has ONE responsibility – to bowl fast. And when your fast bowler is cantering up and delivering laddoos at 125 kph, you can’t expect much. Second, in spite of the carnage, a lot of Indians genuinely enjoyed watching AB de Villiers play. They hooted as he booted the bowlers to all parts of the park.
There’s something about the guy. India loves AB de Villiers.
I have thought long and hard, and the reason is inexplicable at first thought. We have never taken too kindly to players who have gotten the better of us. Just going by records, you’ll find we weren’t too kind to players who were terrific against us.
In One Day Internationals, Sanath Jayasuriya has the most centuries against India – 7, and Indians have no particular fondness for the guy. Then there’s Ricky Ponting, who has smashed 6 One Day centuries and 8 Test centuries against India. I don’t know if there’s a Hate Meter available, but I’m pretty sure Ponting is the most hated cricketer in India. Even more than Sreesanth.
We have a strange relation with foreign cricketers. I don’t know if it’s like this with all countries. Going by records, after Don Bradman (who only played against England), the person with the most centuries against one particular nation is Sunil Gavaskar, who sized up a mind-boggling 13 centuries against the West Indies, at the time when they were the most destructive side in cricket. And there were no helmets back then! And yet, ‘Sunny’ Gavaskar is loved and respected in West Indies.
Somehow, we don’t take kindly to foreign players. In fact, in the modern era (90s onwards), the only cricketers that I think Indians respected were Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar.
But that’s not the case with AB de Villiers. India loves AB de Villiers. Here’s why:
1. AB dE VILLIERS IS A GENIUS.
In case you didn’t know, AB de Villiers is a freaking genius. And we aren’t even talking about his superhuman cricketing skills here. AB de Villiers was a freak of nature right from his childhood. He could excel at nearly every sport he touched, and was also gifted in academics and music. Here’s a sample of what the guy did before he started smashing cricketing records.
And in India, we love Boy Wonders. We love naturally gifted people, those who were bestowed with tons of talent, which is probably why Sachin Tendulkar is a bigger star than Rahul Dravid, who had to ride through greater obstacles than the former, to achieve what he did.
2. AB NEVER SLEDGES.
Personally, I have no problem with aggression on the field. But for most Indians, it is a bit too much. In fact, when you ask Indians what makes Sachin great, we speak equally about his behavior on field, as his cricketing records.
Being the polite, nice guy is important if you want us as your fans. There are teams that are aggressive on the field, like the Australians. For these guys, every day is World War II. I don’t get it – itna gussa karke kya ukhaad loge?Every match with the Australians feels like the climax of Chak De India. The South Africans have also had aggressive players once in a while. But not AB. He is Rohit from Kaho Na Pyar Hai. No matter what, he’ll be a nice guy.
I have never seen the guy raise his voice, shout, or express dissent in any particular way. He is always smiling, and on that rare moment when he feels let down, is unafraid to let his emotions show.
3. AB IS A GENUINE ‘NICE GUY’.
Somehow, Indians have built a bond with AB over the years. This is a far cry from the times when we would only watch a match if India was playing. For us, cricket was India, and India was Sachin Tendulkar. Anything beyond that was of no use to us.
And in an age when cricket is becoming more animated, colourful, and aggressive, there’s this guy who doesn’t mind showing his emotions on the field.
AB de Villiers is like that nice guy in class. The guy who comes first in class but doesn’t mind bunking a class with you. The guy whom the teacher loves, but will never take your name if the teacher conducts an enquiry.
4. WE SEE A BIT OF SEHWAG’S MADNESS IN AB.
Whether you admit it or not, there’s a bit of madness to AB de Villiers.
That hint of unpredictability, that crack of the willow, that ability to bend rules and fling them away. However, there’s a difference. While Sehwag struggled to cope with age and failing hand-eye coordination, AB has evolved into a superpower of the game.
From Tests to ODIs, to T20s, AB is always coming up with innovative ways to take the ball across the boundary. When he’s fielding, he’s the best fielder in the side. When he’s the keeper, he is making Superman seem like a stunt double.
There’s an element of risk in everything he does, a certain style that is both fearless and crazy. AB is the genius that Sehwag couldn’t become. And probably that is what we see when we see AB de Villiers play.
Sunday’s final was another testimony to the craze that AB enjoys in India. He is not one of us, but he could have as well been Suresh from Mumbai or Abdul from Kashmir.
We Indians love AB de Villiers with all our heart.
PS: Screw you, Ricky Ponting. 😀