Cape Town – Determination, hunger and some luck: those are qualities AB de Villiers says have propelled him to a world record 98 consecutive Test appearances for South Africa since his debut in December 2004.
The now 31-year-old strokeplayer, who cleaned up the major laurels at the recent annual CSA Awards, will see that unprecedented trot come to an end, an agonising two caps short of a “century” in a few weeks when the Proteas undertake a two-Test series in Bangladesh without him.
He has pulled out of the five-day portion of the tour given the need to be at home for the scheduled birth of his first child.
That will put New Zealand’s similarly swashbuckling batsman – and also sometimes wicketkeeper -- Brendon McCullum within striking distance of eclipsing De Villiers reasonably soon as his own record for uninterrupted Test service since maiden appearance stands at 94.
The Proteas favourite has already emphasised that “family comes first” in explaining his own decision to break his sequence just ahead of the three-figure mark.
But asked by Sport24 how he could explain his longevity in cricket’s premier code, De Villiers replied: “Definitely a bit of luck, no doubt about that. You can’t control injuries, missing out on games, or being dropped for your form.
“All those things in one way or another have played a part throughout my career, but luckily I’ve always somehow managed to get onto that Test park.
“Lots of determination, yes, lots of hunger, but a spot of luck too and big blessings from the man above.”
A sign of De Villiers’ endurance in the five-day game is the fact that come the first Test in Chittagong on July 21, strike bowler Dale Steyn (assuming he is fit) will be the only the player from De Villiers’s debut match to remain in the mix.
It would be appropriate, as both De Villiers and Steyn had their national baptisms in the December 2004 first Test against England in Port Elizabeth.
The team on that occasion, led by Graeme Smith, featured such names as Boeta Dippenaar, Zander de Bruyn, Jacques Rudolph and Thami Tsolekile.
Considering that the Proteas side tackling the Bangladeshis in the first Test is still coming to grips with the retirement of former frontline stalwarts like Smith and Jacques Kallis, and now for the first time in his career will have to make do without De Villiers, the tourists will field one of their least experienced batting line-ups at that level in some time.
It will increase the onus on remaining seasoned individuals like captain Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy to score heavily in the mini-series.
Former Aussie great Allan Border holds the record, by some distance, for most consecutive appearances in Test cricket (153 between 1979 and 1994), but they were not since debut.
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