AB de Villiers has conquered bowlers the world over, in Tests, ODIs, T20Is and franchise cricket, excelling in cricket thanks to his at times scarcely believable range of shots. Dale Steyn, the No 1 ranked bowler in Test cricket, has spoken of how an assault on him by de Villiers during an IPL match a couple of years ago left him rattled.
Hence it comes as a surprise to know that in his to-be released book ‘AB: The Autobiography’ the batting superstar has revealed that the toughest bowler he’s faced is Gerrit Deist, a former South African domestic cricketer who played one first-class match for Northerns in 1999. And that their rivalry dates back to when the pair were kids playing backyard cricket.
Yes, you read that right. Gerritt Deist.
How did it come to this, you ask?
In his autobiography, de Villiers writes of the bowler who is 11 years older than him: “Even now, whenever I’m asked to name the best bowler I have ever faced, the answer that springs most quickly to mind is Gerrit Deist. That’s not the response I give in media interviews because it would need to be followed by a lengthy explanation but it’s the truth. We later played club cricket together for Tukkies (Tuks Cricket Club); I faced him in the nets on numerous occasions and he always caused me problems.”
De Villiers adds that Deis “was and remains a great friend to me and my brothers” and reflects on an incident from his childhood when he faced him with a taped tennis ball.
“He was 22, and I was 11. He was a tall, strong fast bowler playing senior club cricket in Johannesburg. I was a Laaitjie (child) playing barefoot at Warmbaths Primary School.”He paced out his run-up as far as he could go, right back into the rose bed. (This was) the uncompromising environment in which I learned to play the game.”
How’s that for a revelation?