In the first episode of Wisden and CricViz‘s new podcast The Greatest T20, Luke Wright and Freddie Wilde discuss the T20 phenomenon that is AB de Villiers, explaining how he is a cut above the rest with no apparent weaknesses to his game.
Debating on the topic of the greatest T20 batsman, Wright, the England all-rounder, and Wilde, co-author of 2020’s Wisden Book of the Year Cricket 2.0: Inside the T20 Revolution, spoke about de Villiers’ enterprising strokeplay and all-round competence in the shortest format. Retired from international cricket but plying his trade in leagues round the world, the South African has scored 8,657 runs in 310 T20 games, averaging 37.15 at a brilliant strike-rate of 149.77.
LW: When you look at some of the modern players now who are just as great, someone like AB de Villiers – he is 360, you can’t just bowl yorkers to him. Even if you’re having your best day out as a bowler and getting yorkers in, he’s got an answer to that. Someone like him, you stand there at times in awe, as a bowler, you’ll turn and go ‘Look, I’ve done everything I wanted to, he’s still able to hit me for a four.’
Gayle can be brutal. Someone like a de Villiers is just as scary for what he can do to you.
FW: There are slight chinks in the armour with several players. For me, that is de Villiers’ greatest asset – in batting in all formats, there are essentially trade-offs. You try and score faster, you probably gonna compromise your wicket. If you try and hit boundaries, you might face more dot balls, if you’re strong against pace, you might be slightly weaker against spin. For de Villiers, that is not an issue. He is able to combine all of those things. Another one is 360-degree hitting, and also, awesome power down the ground. Gayle and guys like Pollard and Russell have built their game on awesome power, hitting basically in the V in front of them. Russell basically now more towards cover point. He is opening that up. But de Villiers is hitting that area and hitting 360.
He is the sort of player you’re thinking – what can you do to this guy? With Gayle, there are slight areas to exploit. In this debate, those two (Gayle and de Villiers) already stand out. Gayle, for statistical dominance, the sheer volume of runs, awesome power. De Villiers then does things that Gayle can’t do. That is a frightening prospect for a bowler or fielding captain.
LW: In T20, you often speak about dot ball count. Correct me if I am wrong – Gayle has got one of the highest dot-ball counts in cricket. If that was anyone else, mere mortals like myself, we probably won’t have a job. But because of the brutal power he is able to adapt that.
With de Villiers, there’s no stopping. If he does miss out on the boundary, he is getting off stroke which hurts you in a different way. Such a hard thing about this debate about who is the greatest. There are so many different strengths. In the Big Bash recently, AB de Villiers played for Brisbane Heat, you’re going to the meetings about how people are going to try and shut him down, you’re looking at statistics – red comes up if it is someone not to bowl at and it’s above 140 strike-rate, etc. It is just red for De Villiers.
There is nothing to stop him really. You have to hope he has an off day.