THE world record-breaking century scored by South Africa’s ODI skipper AB de Villiers recently against the West Indies has left critics searching for superlatives and statisticians scratching their heads.
Besides being a breathtaking spectacle for all those who had the privilege to witness it, De Villiers’ 31-ball century also underlined the remarkable change that the game of cricket has undergone since the advent of Twenty20 cricket.
Ranked as the best batsman in world cricket today along with Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara, De Villiers plundered several records in his epic innings including that of the fastest half-century off just 16 balls and the most number of sixes (16) hit by a player in a single innings.
Back in 1996, when Pakistan’s dashing all-rounder Shahid Afridi had set the record for the fastest hundred off just 37 balls against Sri Lanka, the pundits believed the mark would never be eclipsed. However, with cricket’s shortest format of T20 gaining ground, it is no shock that Afridi’s world record has been bettered twice in the last 12 months — first by New Zealand’s Corey Anderson who scored a 36-ball hundred in January last year, also against the West Indies, and now by De Villiers.
Such hitting and batting innovations are a far cry from the traditional format of the game which remains the Tests.
In Test matches, which have been played for nearly 150 years now, the hallmark of a good batsman is his sound defence and wristy ground shots which were thrown out of the window by De Villiers last Sunday.
When the concept of limited-overs cricket first took shape in the early 1970s, it was disliked by the purists who dubbed it ‘slam-bang cricket’ or ‘the pyjama games’ due to its reckless brand and coloured clothing.
However, those features are the highlights of today’s game of cricket and a sure-fire draw for crowds all over. Who knows, with the ICC World Cup 2015 just round the corner, there may well be another player waiting to upstage De Villiers.
Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2015