"I do try and read the bowler's mind, premeditate a tad." Easier said than done, but AB de Villiers doesn't just say that; he does it as well for Royal Challengers Bangalore. A fifty off just 23 balls from his bat on Thursday sent Pune Warriors India into submission mode. But more than that, it was the disdain with which the South African treated the bowlers that deflated Pune's hopes of a win.
In that 68-run partnership on Thursday, Moises Henriques had the best seat in the house - at the non-striker's end. He too played a part with his 13-ball 27 but had his jaw dropping at every improvisation de Villiers pulled off. One ball he made room to hit on the legside, the next he stood still to reverse-paddle. The South African was not just attempting audacious shots but also connecting with ease - as if knowing where the bowler is going to pitch it next.
No doubt he was enjoying it at the expense of Pune's helplessness. "It was a very enjoyable game for me tonight, gave me a lot of pleasure," de Villiers said. "I do try and read the bowler's mind, premeditate a tad, but need to keep the basics after that. Does not work always, but it did tonight." Ask Pune, and they will testify that.
Henriques, who wasn't doing bad either, later summed up the bowlers' agony: "It was pretty special. We have a bowlers' meeting before the game where we talk about the opposition batsmen and where to bowl to them, and I was actually thinking, 'Where the hell would you bowl to AB de Villiers' because he hits the ball everywhere or anywhere, to all parts of the field. So I was feeling for the bowler there because I wasn't sure what I would do myself," Henriques told the IPL website.
Angelo Mathews, who stepped down from the Pune captaincy before the game on Thursday, almost took his side home with his 19-ball 32 in partnership with Robin Uthappa, but he too conceded that de Villiers' death-over hitting won the game for RCB.
"De Villiers is one of the most dangerous batsmen to bowl at. When he gets going, you really cannot think of a field and a ball to bowl. He is that kind of a character and it is always difficult when you are bowling at the death," Mathews said while talking to the IPL website.
When compared to Chris Gayle, de Villiers may have scored half the number of runs the West Indian has in IPL 6 so far, but his punches are packed with as much power and swagger as we associate with the Jamaican. If Gayle has struck his 505 runs at a strike rate of 162.37, de Villiers 251 runs have come at 160.89.
Fair to conclude that getting Gayle won't kill your pain as a bowler, there's AB down the order to aggravate it.