Rassie van der Dussen’s ODI numbers are astonishing, but what comes next will define him
Rassie van der Dussen’s ODI record is astonishing, and if he continues in a similar vein, he could go down as a South Africa great in the format, writes Shashwat Kumar.
Whenever you talk about the current South African side, Rassie van der Dussen can fly under the radar. A calm, composed and unassuming batter, he does not produce as many jaw-dropping strokes as Quinton de Kock does, nor does he hit the ball as far as David Miller. But when it comes to churning out runs, oh, there is absolutely no comparison. Van der Dussen is the best South African at it, and a case can be made that he is the best on the planet too.
As things stand, the right-handed batter has 1,674 runs at an average of 69.75 across 34 innings. That is astonishing. It is the second-highest of all time, with a cut-off of 1,000 runs – only Shubman Gill, who is even earlier in his career than van der Dussen, has a higher average. And while you might expect that figure to drop, his start compares favourably to anyone throughout history. After the same number of innings, only Babar Azam and Hashim Amla have scored more runs, and only Mike Hussey has had a higher average.
Those numbers are also not boosted by plundering runs against weaker attacks – if anything, van der Dussen has thrived against stronger opposition. He has made all four of his tons against India, Australia, New Zealand, England and Pakistan, the five best sides at the 2019 Cricket World Cup and the top five sides in the current world rankings, and he averages 90.29 against that quintet.
His risk-free style of batting helps him score runs in a variety of situations. At the start of the innings, he prioritizes singles and doubles. He hits the odd boundary but only when the opportunity presents itself in the first half of his knocks. As he bats more deliveries, though, he starts opening up his shoulders, looking for bowlers to target and boundary opportunities, while also being more proactive in finding singles. Good against pace and spin, he can play almost every stroke in the book, thereby allowing him to catch up after any slow starts.
His century in the first ODI against England was a prime example. His first 50 runs occupied 63 balls and contained just three boundaries. But it took just 47 balls to reach his hundred from there, and by the end, he was scoring at almost a run a ball, even though the knock contained just 34 runs in fours and sixes, and he helped South Africa up to a total that would prove match-winning.
He only made 33 in the second, but there was another example of his unflappability. After inside-edging onto his pad, he cannily stood his ground – nothing untoward in that – but still blocking Jos Buttler in attempting a catch. Then, as Buttler attempted to get under his opponent’s skin, van der Dussen deflected every barb as easily as if it were a ball on his hip down to fine leg.
As with most batters, there are still a couple of boxes that he needs to tick. He currently averages 26.66 in Asia, and is yet to play an ODI in Australia, India or New Zealand. And then there’s the Cricket World Cup on the horizon. Van der Dussen averaged 62 in 2019, despite not being required to bat against West Indies, Afghanistan or Sri Lanka. But South Africa’s campaign was tepid, with no crushing, unjust heartbreak, merely a team not good enough to compete with the best.
Often their tournaments have ended in drama, but van der Dussen is as undramatic as they come. Despite a few hiccups, he is at the heart of a side that should now qualify for the 2023 World Cup, and that should be feared when it gets there. Van der Dussen, South Africa’s quiet lynchpin, could be about to step into the limelight.