Respected AB de Villiers,
Regardless of what you may expect of your fans, countless of whom would certainly be emotional today upon hearing the news of your retirement, let me communicate a thing clearly.
Must I also admit with sincerity, I am putting my foot down here.
Your retirement is NOT accepted.
In an era where the world is quick to call emotions as fake, and feelings ‘cringe,’ let it be known that fans are doing neither today as they submit the following with sincerity:
We are not letting you retire!
But, first up, a confession.
I, with gratitude and pride, represent the voice of the countless fans today. These are observers whose cricketing experience changed 360-degrees as soon as you walked down the pitch for the first time to render an impact on cricket so strong that it reverberates everywhere even today.
That’s seventeen years in counting from December 2004, when you first strode down the pitch against England scoring 42 from both innings in a Test that didn’t go your way.
Surely, three more years here and there and you’d have become a cricketer who stayed out for twenty years.
Two decades on a globetrotting pitch as the sport changed shape and form, explored geographies it hadn’t visited before, accepted cricketers, discarded some, showed love to some, derided others…. did all of that with the possible exception of one thing.
Without ever changing its stance on you, Mr. Abraham Benjamin De Villiers!
And it’s that, cricketers there are many, but only a few, a tiny almost handpicked lot much like freshly picked flowers amid the morning dew, to whom the game owes a due!
To say that cricket is indebted to you would be stating what’s clearly understood, more like a necessary fact and not stating something that’s sugar-coated!
You beautified cricket. You made it a landscape portrait much like a Leonardo da Vinci timeless classic.
One that no Christie’s or Sotheby’s auction can ever attempt to put a tag against for it was touched by your batting; the god particle itself.
If at all it were possible to forget the runs, the mind boggling strike rates you scored them with, the games you won, the marathon hours you batted for, the teams you represented and the friendships you forged, the game is indebted to you for being you!
A synonym of greatness few can match. A talent rare to unearth and equally rare to second but above all, a legacy that actually cannot be continued for the one who birthed it is one of a kind!
A batsman incomparable to any, one who can’t fit into any genres for the genre it belongs to doesn’t exist for mere mortals, to which most cricketing earthlings belong.
You sir brought back to life in the 2000s the dying hope that batsmen of flair and class were gone with the retirements of Lara and Ponting, not long after.
You sir reminded us of precisely that which since your arrival became the norm: to remind bowlers that inevitably cricket would crawl back to being the batsmen’s game for as long as you were there.
Glad we were and glad we shall remain that in these seventeen years you demonstrated also what it means to be indefinable, an idea that perhaps was dying down when two unquestionable greats – in Kallis and Sanga- walked into the sunset.
Whether it was in your 2015 hammering, sorry butchering of the West Indies, that culminated into 149 off 44 or the artwork created with painstaking patience, the 43 off 297 versus us Indians, you showed that it was possible to change the approach to bat altogether.
To be an unstoppable sports car on a freewheeling highway one moment and then, soon after, becoming a monk abstaining from any form of vices!
And yet, so wondrous was this change of gear in our batting as you became a caterpillar having also demonstrated how to be a butterfly. You tempted us ever so more to see what gifts you had for us in the T20 format.
While the stats paint a different picture, suggesting you remained not out in eleven of your seventy five innings, that you went long beyond your 1,600 plus T20I runs for South Africa and didn’t stop before thudding 5,100 (plus) IPL runs (3 tons), you remained undefeated.
Both in spirit and in the love for the game!
Not that your detractors shied away too from calling you and your Indian brother Virat Kohli names for failing to win the RCB what it most craved for – the trophy.
But staying true to your quintessential Protean spirit, you kept rising after one body blow after another.
Little surprise then that some address you as the Knight, for it’s easy to fall but difficult to rise, right?
Much like the watchful protector who eschews stardom, when you could so easily have remained the darling of the media by remaining the captain for South Africa, you gently stepped away, giving Faf the baton to rise!
Maybe that was your ultimate leveller, your high.
And even as you have called time on a career, which is but timeless, a thing must be said for certain:
Flyers there are many, but rare to find birds whose flight takes the skies to new highs!
O destructor of bowlers, giver of hope to a batting-loving world, do anything to us that you desire, but don’t walk away.
And if that’s indeed the final decision, come as you are, but at least, stay connected to the game in any way that it can continue to be swayed by the AB-way?
With profound love, sincerity and regard