AB de Villiers broke two records and equalled another during the first Test against Pakistan in Johannesburg. Yet he says there’s more where that came from – and he’s going to bring it. By ANT SIMS.
During the first Test against Pakistan, AB de Villiers became the first player to take ten catches and score a hundred in the same match, and he not only broke the record for most catches by a South African in a match, but also equalled the world record held by Jack Russell.
De Villiers was oblivious to his feat at the time, however, and insists records aren’t what he plays for. He simply hopes that he can keep on doing what he loves and have the work he puts in pay off. The 28-year-old has made the role of wicketkeeping his own in the last few months, and believes he is still growing and has a lot to learn.
"I wasn't aware that I had broken a record, but obviously they are there to be broken. I'm happy and lucky that I had the opportunity to do so. I do try to keep my feet on the ground and keep working hard, and hopefully that will help me become an even better player,” De Villiers said.
In his 12 Tests as wicketkeeper, he has scored two hundreds and averages 47.11, just below his overall Test average of 49.96. There was significant doubt over whether De Villiers would be able to perform the duties of keeping wicket without the task impacting his batting form, but those fears seem to be unfounded. While he had a slight blip at the start of his tenure, things seem to be flowing smoothly now.
The number four-ranked Test batsmen says he’s still not quite at the level where he wants to be, but is pleased with the way things have gone thus far.
"I was very happy with my performance. I’m still not where I want to be, but it’s nice to see a few rewards coming my way; it’s something I want to do well. I was also really happy with my batting – it’s something I’ve always worked hard on and hopefully I will keep improving,” De Villiers said.
De Villiers’ back has also been a heavily debated point. He had previously stated that wicketkeeping might bother him or cause pain, but as things stand, everything seems to be working out just fine, and even the concern about a finger injury is nothing to worry about right now.
“My back is 100 percent at the moment. Everything is working fine. I took a bit of a blow on my finger in the Test. My nail was sort of coming off and there was a bit of blood, but nothing serious. There’s no fracture or anything like that,” he said.
The talk of team culture seems to come up whenever players in the South African team talk about their experiences, and De Villiers is no exception. He hailed the effort by his teammates which allowed him to score freely and positively when he notched up his hundred in South Africa’s second innings.
“I don’t think people always realise how valuable those opening partnerships are. It takes the nerves away quite a bit and we’re very fortunate to have such a solid top three that gives us a great foundation to work off,” said De Villiers.
Just like Quinton de Kock, De Villiers has also worked closely with veteran keeper Mark Boucher to help him improve his keeping, and just being around somebody of Boucher’s calibre has helped him improve his game tremendously.
"Having been around Boucher for so many years has definitely helped me a lot. He's always been a supporter of mine and he's always been behind me. Just a few years ago I was the one hitting balls to him and I learnt a lot from him,” he said.
The two are still in touch and De Villiers says that whenever Boucher picks up something he’s not doing quite right, he’ll send him tips to help him improve his game.
"He won't change me much technically, but if he sees something on TV which I'm not doing right, he'll always let me know. It'll always be something basic like move your head towards the ball, but he'll never fiddle with my technique.
“I've watched him for many years and it's definitely rubbed off on me,” De Villiers said. DM
Photo: South Africa's AB de Villiers celebrates his fifty during the second day of their first cricket Test match against New Zealand in Cape Town, January 3, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings