The only overseas player to feature in all editions of IPL since its inception – AB de Villiers – has finally called it a day to his professional career. In a career that has seen it all, AB de Villiers has scaled mountains that very few have even dared to dream of. He hangs up his boots as one of the greatest ever, if not the greatest, in the short history of IPL. A deep dive into his evolution as a batter and the legacy he left in the tournament. AB De Villiers retires as the sixth highest run-getter in the tournament and one of the two overseas players to scale the mountain of 5000 runs.
It’s not just the runs he scored that mattered but how he scored those and the chilling effect it put on the opposition bowlers and captains that, arguably, make him the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time) in the tournament. With a bare minimum cut-off of 1000 runs, only eight players averaged more and only four scored at a faster rate than AB de Villiers in IPL. Chris Gayle’s 351 sixes aside, no other player has hit as many maximums as de Villiers. De Villiers was bought by Delhi Daredevils in 2008 for a sum of USD $300,000 in 2008. He featured only in six games in the season and found it tough to get into the eleven with an already established Indian batting core.
He hit gold the following season when IPL was shifted to his home base in South Africa where he finished third in the run charts behind Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist with 465 runs at 51.67 leading Delhi’s batting as they finished top of the points table. He hit the only century of the season – 105* against CSK. He moved to Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2011 and forged the batting core of the side for the best part of the decade along with Gayle and Virat Kohli. After finding his feet in the new franchise in 2011, the next five years witnessed the peak of De Villiers in the tournament. In each of the five seasons between 2012 and 2016, he managed to average 35+ and score at 150+.
Among the 30 players with 1000 or more runs in these five years, he was the only one to score a 150+ strike rate and only three players could manage to top his average of 42.91. Despite being a third of the strongest batting core in IPL alongside Gayle and Kohli, his runs did not translate necessarily to success for the team, often owing to weak bowling attacks. RCB managed to reach the Play-Offs only twice in these five seasons and had a solitary final appearance. He largely batted at 4 in this period up until 2014, and in 2015 he moved up to 3 in an attempt to face to optimize balls faced.
2015 and 2016 proved to be his most successful years in IPL scoring upwards of 500 runs at 45+ average and 165+ strike rate. Perhaps no other batsmen made death overs batting a spectacle as much as De Villiers in IPL. He combined his power game to clear the boundaries with the dexterity of his 360-degree stroke play to dominate this phase of the game. Only MS Dhoni and Kieron Pollard scored more runs than De Villiers’ 1868 runs in the death overs phase (Overs 16-20) in IPL. He scored these at an average of 46.70 and strike rate of 223 – no other player averaged 40 in this phase while only Gayle and Andre Russell could manage 200+ strike rates (minimum 500 runs).
One stat that will best define De Villiers’ excellence in IPL is the fact that no player has won more Player of the Match awards in the tournament’s history than his 25 – the first of which came as far back in 2009 and the latest a few months ago. De Villiers leaves behind a legacy that will be tough to replicate for the next generation of batters.