By Jake Beleski
How many current batsmen can captivate an audience across all three formats of the game?
Of course, the usual suspects are always worth a watch – Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, and Kane Williamson are all word-class in their own right, but one man stands alone at the top.
If you were designing the ideal batsmen you would mix Kohli’s aggression, Smith’s unusual quirks, and Williamson’s methodical approach.
South African skipper AB de Villiers is that player.
De Villiers has proved his worth time and time again on this tour, singlehandedly dragging his side from dire situations to competitive totals and thrilling run-chases.
Through one twenty20 and four one-day internationals de Villiers has scored 265 runs at an average of 88.3, and his wicket will be the key when the two sides meet in today’s decider in Auckland.
His blistering form makes his absence from the test team for this tour even more disappointing, even for the most loyal of New Zealand fans.
De Villiers has played a limited role in tests in recent seasons, preferring to focus his energy into the shorter formats of the game in a well-publicised bid to win the World Cup in 2019.
He has not officially retired from tests, but it seems a matter of time before he hangs up the white clothing for good.
For a player that averages 50.46 in the longest format, it is a shame fans will be robbed of the chance to see him bat for an extended period of time.
Throw in his status as one of the best fielders the game has ever seen, and it becomes clear Kiwi fans are being short-changed a chance to see one of the greatest of all time leave his mark on what shapes as a thrilling test series.
The Black Caps’ bowlers will breathe a collective sigh of relief, as de Villiers has constantly tormented them with his innovative shot-making and ability to score to all parts of the field.
Even when South Africa were 158-6 and then 216-7 in the fourth ODI on Wednesday, with de Villiers at the crease there was always a sense they would reach a competitive target.
He calmly compiled a brilliant 72 not out to see the Proteas through to 279 from their 50 overs, before Martin Guptill’s incredible 180 not out in reply eventually saw the Black Caps cruise to victory.
There is a chance we may not see de Villiers play in this country again depending on how he manages his schedule over the next few seasons, so make the most of it while you can.
It’s just a shame his tour is not lasting a little longer.