Ten years ago to the day, a lush-haired AB de Villiers made his debut for South Africa. Three Tests later, he scored his first Test century. A decade on, and De Villiers is still going, having not missed a single Test in that time period. In this day and age, that is quite an extraordinary achievement.
Not only does it take exceptional fitness to stay so consistent, but it also takes immense commitment to the cause. While some players would opt out of “easier” series against “smaller” opposition, De Villiers has always put representing his country first, no matter which team he had to face.
Although the video above might be part of a marketing campaign, South Africa’s cricketers have always seemed more in tune with their fanbase than any other country in the World. As De Villiers was nearing his 20th Test Century on Wednesday against the West Indies, his home fans clapped and cheered him on. Although the crowd was modest, their support was genuine and overwhelming. As he reached his ton, they rose to their feet to applaud their hometown hero.
For a player of De Villiers’ calibre, there was no better way to mark a decade in Test match whites. A decade after first stepping out for South Africa in Test match whites, De Villiers looks as motivated as ever, and there seems to be no end in sight to his run-scoring prowess.
Already South Africa's third-highest run-scorer in the longest format of the game, behind Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, De Villiers is already seen as one of South Africa's all-time greats. Although he is still some way off from catching up to Test cricket’s leading run-scorers, it’s De Villiers’ innovation that should see him lauded as one of the all-time great Test players.
De Villiers' consistency in Tests is equally impressive. Since 2008, only once has he averaged under 50.00 in a calendar year. That was in 2011, when South Africa played just five Tests, and he still averaged 47.12. Since 2008, he has scored 23 of his career 36 fifties and 17 of his career 20 hundreds. He has become one of South Africa’s most consistent players and shows no sign of letting up just yet.
At the end-of-the-day press conference, coach Russell Domingo revealed that both AB de Villiers and his teammate Hashim Amla were pretty drained after such a long day out in the field. Having not played Test cricket since August, South Africa bounced back from being 57-3 to 340-3 at the close of play thanks to Amla and De Villiers. De Villiers’ strike-rate was at a steady 66.82 at the end of the day, but his approach has very much turned things around. Domingo told the media:
We have two of the best batsmen in the world in our side at the moment in Hashim and AB. It’s difficult to separate the two of them in this format. De Villiers is just so naturally gifted and he understands the game very well. He has an excellent cricket brain, too. It’s so difficult for bowlers to settle when they are playing against these two players because they are always finding ways to score, and that’s what makes them so special.
Always looking to score is something that De Villiers did incredibly well on Wednesday, and while he might have been exhausted by the end of play, he's got a lot left in him—not just when he continues his dig on Thursday but also in the years to come.
All quotes obtained firsthand.