AB, a master of improvisation
Soon after AB de Villiers lifted Ashok Dinda over mid-wicket fence for six, the batsman sported a big grin. It might as well have been a smirk for, he knew, he had outsmarted the bowler once again.
Till then Dinda was getting his length right, his yorkers -- both in the block-hole and on the off-stump – had been bang on target and hence had been difficult score off. But de Villiers, as he does it so often and with such ridiculous ease, moved wide of off-stump and, down on one knee, sent the bowler soaring into stands. Having disturbed Dinda’s rhythm, the right-hander pulled off a range of shots – scoop over fine-leg and reverse-sweep to third man to name two – to plunder 26 runs of that final over to make a big difference to the outcome of the match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Pune Warriors here on Thursday night.
“He is a good bowler and really bowls good yorkers,” de Villiers said of Dinda. “... So, I had to do something different that’s why I played that lap shot (for six). I knew that if I just tried to hit him out of the ground, he would get his yorkers right. I tried to read his mind, put the pressure on him from the first ball with the lap shot and then he had to change his game plan,” he reasoned after picking the man of the match award for his 23-ball unbeaten 50 against Warriors.
How good a batsman is often defined by the amount of time he has to play his strokes and how much he makes use of the crease. When it comes to T20 at least, few batsmen can rival de Villiers in these two parameters. Chris Gayle is devastating but he has his hitting arc and bowlers to target (he can afford that luxury as he opens the innings). No target appears unachievable when MS Dhoni is in the middle no matter who the bowlers are but rarely does the Indian skipper try anything extravagant. He relies mostly on his brute power. De Villiers, though, thrives on improvisation.
“I think it’s important to score in as many areas as possible in T20 cricket,” he noted. “You don’t want to be predictable, whether you are a batsman or a bowler. It’s important to keep refreshing your game, keep coming up with new ideas; create shots and create deliveries and try and stay one step ahead of the bowler or batsman. As a batsman, I try and work out new ways to put pressure on the bowler,” the Protean pointed out.
Robin Uthappa, a big hitter of the cricket ball himself, reckons de Villiers’ game as ‘pretty dangerous’. “But honestly,” Uthappa noted, “it’s amazing the way he watches the ball. I think he’s got some great ball sense. I have played that shot and I know how risky that shot is. When you go down for that shot, you actually watch the ball till the last minute. It’s a skill that needs to be worked upon and I am sure he’s worked hard on it to do so well and do it so consistently,” he offered.
Interestingly de Villiers said he doesn’t practice those strokes much. “Every time I go in, I try and read the situation and play to the best of my ability. Yes, it’s important to be fit (to play such shots). Obviously, sometimes it just needs one ball to make the difference, so you need to be focussed in the best possible condition with every ball you play out there.”