An Open Letter to the Man Who Will Replace AB de Villiers


An Open Letter to the Man Who Will Replace AB de Villiers

Illustration: Akshita Monga

How does one replace an exceptionally innovative middle-order batsman with a superhero-like aura on the field, who can knock it out of the park at will and kept wickets like his life depended on it?

The answer is, you don’t.

The task of finding AB de Villiers’ successor needs nothing less than a mighty Avenger. Unfortunately, it’ll get nothing more than an ordinary sports consultant who will reach out to potential candidates in a letter that may sound a lot like this:

Dear Potential Candidate,

In a move being hailed as the second worst Proteas tragedy since the death of Mandela, AB de Villiers has retired *Long Pause for respect*.

Here at the South African Selection Committee, we are still coming to terms with the fact that life will never be the same again and we may never see one of the all-time greats pad up and enthrall us with his batting prowess in a classical game of cricket (No, IPL hardly counts). But as is the case with every selection committee, salaries don’t come from the depths of our emotions, so without further ado, let’s leave no stone unturned in finding the right talent to replace him. After all, the ICC World Cup is only a year away.

First up, you must possess the ability to be the batting backbone of a team infamous for choking in big games. It’s a reputation they’ve managed to not overcome despite chasing the highest first innings score of 434 with one ball to spare and playing innumerable World Cup semi-finals. So when your team collapses around you, don’t freak out. You’re expected to take it in your stride. Along the way, if you could also break records like, let’s say, the fastest ODI 50, 100, and 150, that would be swell.

The media should label your ability to get better with age as “The Reverse Ranatunga Syndrome.”

Moreover, it’ll also help if you can double up as a wicket-keeper batsman. Don’t be mistaken, we won’t compensate you specifically for this. But after half a decade of proving your batting prowess by winning us umpteen you will hopefully be gifted nicknames like Mr 360. That’s the dream you should be chasing.

Are you still reading this? Okay then. #braveman

There are freakish standards of excellence we expect you to set for both your teammates and the opposition. This includes taking the odd jaw-dropping catch that make spectators question the laws of physics and gravity. It will also be immensely helpful if your passion for the game is so infectious, that the mere sight of you wearing the jersey makes fans root harder for your team. Regardless of whether it’s for The Titans, RCB, or the South Africans, your inclusion must add an air of scrappy excellence to the team. The media should label your ability to get better with age as “The Reverse Ranatunga Syndrome.” This is mostly non-negotiable.

If the the almost impossible scenario comes true and you land the job, your behaviour off the field will also come under intense scrutiny. Your job as the darling of South African cricket will require you to maintain the aura of a creatively devastating batsman while effortlessly switching to a compassionate and light-hearted soul once off the field. Here’s a couple of tips for doing this: Give the world #Virushka level couple goals by proposing your long-time girlfriend in front of the Taj Mahal and breaking the internet with adorbs pictures of your baby boy. Please understand, we need an Awww.

The one respite from this taxing grind is that you will have the honour of carrying forward a rich tradition of silent and strong Proteas legends like Jonty Rhodes, Shaun Pollock, Graeme Smith, and your predecessor by retiring before thirty five. Unlike players from some countries (*cough* India *cough* Pakistan *cough*) who prefer overstaying their welcome, we believe there’s no pride in dragging an old body toward the twilight end of a stubbornly lengthy career. Instead, we’d prefer you understand the importance of leaving with some dignity as opposed to chasing personal milestones and self-absorbed World Cup pursuits.

Finally, your retirement announcement should be like your batting dynamic and take everyone by surprise. It should invoke feelings of deep loss from a wide spectrum of individuals ranging from South African politicians to Bollywood celebs. It should unite nations in grief over the fact that you probably had five more years of good cricket ahead of you. Simultaneously, it should leave us unruffled because you were never the type to put personal laurels above the team’s greater good.

But who am I kidding? Expecting to find a replacement for AB de Villiers is like expecting to find true love on – the possibility might be there but you can’t help but be skeptical. If in case you’re still interested in this job and think you’d ace it, here are some other job vacancies that may interest you: Scaling Mt Everest, fixing Delhi’s air quality, and of course, bringing back acche din.