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“His international retirement might mean that the great will end without a well-deserved World Cup Trophy, but for all who watched him play will agree that Abraham Benjamin de Villiers’ legacy, with or without the coveted title, will forever stand tall”.

It’s been a little over a day that the bomb was dropped. A little over a day when the maverick, the genius, the legend bade farewell. A little over a day when social media swept up with all kinds of tributes for a hero who inspired, who motivated and who impacted. He threatened with his presence; he brought joy with it too. He sent shivers with his blade; he left one awe-struck with it too. He walked in possessing the gait of a champion and walked out an even bigger star; a star who left behind his legion of followers perplexed, numbed and in a state of confused trance.

Farewells are tough but farewells also are the norm. The harsh but inevitable cycle of birth and death only reveals the reality of bitter goodbyes, but man, so accustomed to the presence of a loved one, does find it difficult to let go of a being that he has grown up admiring and adoring. Unbelief. Acceptance. Deep pain. Slow realisation. As AB de Villiers took to Twitter to announce his sudden retirement from all international cricket with immediate effect, all these emotions and many more came swivelling by. It can’t be…! Has he really…? But, why so suddenly…? How could he…? Oh no!

The hearts wanted to cry out loud, but the deepest cricket fanatic stood his ground. Suppressing tears and wails, he brought forth a smile as the Proteas proclaimed of a sense of tiredness from the game. We knew that the exhaustion was a direct result of playing selflessly for 14 years. For his team, for his franchise and for his fans.

But why did we choose de Villiers? Ask any ardent sports lover and he too will be at a loss of words at why one sportsman is suddenly promoted to the zenith of all love and adulation, while others are relegated to the bunch of ordinariness. Was it his consistency? But then, even Ross Taylor is as consistent. Was it his big-hitting skills? No, Darren Sammy was a renowned hitter as well. Was it his match-winning skills? Then, what about Gautam Gambhir? His friendly behaviour? Nope, most South Africans are just that -amiable, kind and humble. Then what was it?

His imperious cut and the ferocious pull shot were out of the world and the slog hits against the spinners even more fascinating. The reverse sweep and the conventional sweep too came easy to him and when he was not killing the bowling with his staggering shots, he was putting up a defensive front akin to the high-walled forts in the city of Uruk in Sumer, Mesopotamia. The 30-ball 100 came just as easily to him as the 297-ball 43 at the Feroz Shah Kotla, in which he had fought and fought hard to save his team from the rubles, only to fall slightly short.

But de Villiers was not as much about the shots as he was about the individual behind the shots. When he proposed to his wife Danielle in front of the Taj Mahal, our hearts swooned. When he sang a duet with her, we desperately sang aloud, even in our jarring, discordant tunes. He was a rugby player, a hockey star, a tennis sensation but when he left them all behind to choose cricket as his profession, we remained blessed.

The letters A, B and D over the years have refused to be mere graphic representations of the alphabet, for they imbibed the spirit of what the South African had stood for. Astounding. Benevolent. Delightful. He was Spiderman and Superman. He was Mr. 360. He was a super-being. An alien. A cricketer mistaking the balls to be mosquitoes. Swatting them all over. A bird, who could fly to fetch and pick out the craziest of catches. Squatting mid-air, to even send Newton into a tizzy. He attacked even his compatriots hard on the field but with a wide, sheepish smile he traversed about his way, winning trophies and winning hearts; exuding a joie de vivre spirit all along.

It was his jovial character. The ease with which he carried out his trade. His professionalism that seemed to stand out in the generation of boorish rogues. His simplicity that never failed to praise his contemporaries. His transformation from an ordinary individual into an extraordinary one in the park. The never-ending quest for further success and his refusal to be satiated with the achievements that already were his own.

His international retirement might mean that the great will end without a well-deserved World Cup Trophy, but for all who watched him play will agree that Abraham Benjamin de Villiers’ legacy, with or without the coveted title, will forever stand tall.

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