Superman of Cricket – the Career of AB De Villiers

He has more than one nickname: Some refer to AB De Villiers as Mr 360 degrees, but here’s why he’s also known as the Superman of Cricket.

Who is the Superman of Cricket?

AB De Villiers is known as the Superman of Cricket. De Villiers played for South Africa from 2004 to 2018 and he holds a number of national and international batting records.

He’s referred to as Superman because of his impressive statistics and also for his ability to adapt to a number of roles.

Roles of AB De Villiers

AB De Villiers started his career as a wicket keeper/batsman. While he didn’t take the keeping gloves so much in his later years, the ability to do both jobs to a world class standard is one reason why he was known as Superman.

He was also very versatile with the bat. AB was known for fast scoring, but he could also play long and patient innings in test cricket when the situation demanded it.

De Villiers was by no means a bowler, but he still managed to take nine international wickets with his very occasional, gentle medium pace.

AB de Villiers as a wicket-keeper

Playing Style

His other nickname of Mr 360 degrees gives us a clue about AB De Villiers’ style of play in limited overs cricket. He had such a wide array of shots that he could literally hit the ball anywhere on the field.

That’s why many think of De Villiers as purely a one day cricketer. He was exceptional in the short forms, and scored his white ball runs quickly, but there was much more to his game.

When the situation demanded it, AB could play patiently in red ball cricket and his statistics in the longer form are superb.

de Villiers’s International Career

Test Debut to Last Test

The South African selectors deserve some credit here as AB De Villiers was picked for the test side after playing just 16 first class matches. He would make his debut against England in December 2004, in a match where Dale Steyn also played his first test for South Africa.

AB opened the batting in that game and made just 42 runs in two innings, but he eventually settled into a role lower down the order. When he compiled his highest test score of 278 against Pakistan in 2010, De Villiers was batting at number five and this was a more natural position.

AB De Villiers would go on to play in 114 test matches, the last of which came against Australia in 2018. He scored 8765 runs with 22 centuries and his average of 50.66 is exceptional for any era.


England’s tour of South Africa in 2004/05 ended with a series of One Day Internationals and this is where AB De Villiers made his limited overs debut. He featured for the first time in international green as South Africa took on Michael Vaughan’s tourists at Bloemfontein on February 2nd, 2005.

AB made just 20 in a game that ended in a thrilling tie, but there was so much more to come. He set a number of ODI batting records as he played in 228 matches, up to his final appearance against India in 2018.

De Villiers scored 9577 ODI runs with 25 centuries, an average of 53.50 and a highest score of 176.


AB De Villiers was a natural choice for South Africa’s T20 side, but maybe his statistics don’t quite do him justice here. He made his debut in this format against Australia in 2006 and would play in 78 matches between then and 2017.

De Villiers scored 1672 T20i runs with a strike rate of 135.16 and a best of 79. In comparison, his overall stats in all T20 games reveal four centuries, a top score of 133 and a strike rate above 150.

Captain in All Three Formats

Graeme Smith was South Africa’s multi-format captain for much of AB De Villiers’ career and he proved difficult to replace. De Villiers has skippered the team in all three formats and he took over the ODI and T20i captaincy after South Africa’s exit from the 50-Over World Cup in 2011.

He enjoyed some success as skipper, but there were times when he may have felt that his workload was becoming too much. AB resigned from the T20i captaincy in 2013 after just 18 games, but he stayed on in the 50-over format, eventually leading the side on 103 matches.

De Villiers also captained South Africa in three tests, but this generally came about when others weren’t available.

His overall win percentage came close to 60%. AB De Villiers won 69 of his 124 matches as South African captain. There were 49 defeats, one tie and five ‘no result’ games.

IPL Years

AB De Villiers played for two IPL franchises during his career. He began with a brief stint at Delhi Daredevils from 2008 to 2010, but he will be better remembered as a Royal Challengers Bangalore player from 2011 to 2021.

AB De Villiers
AB De Villiers – Royal Challengers Bangalore

AB produced his regular power hitting while RCB also used him as a wicket keeper to a greater extent than other teams at that time. By the end of the 2022 IPL season, De Villiers was in sixth place in the list of all-time leading run scorers in the competition.

He played 184 games and scored 5.162 runs with three centuries and a highest score of 133 not out. His exceptional strike rate of 151.68 proves his value to Royal Challengers in particular.

AB De Villiers Records

AB De Villiers holds a number of batting records and most of them are based around his fast scoring in the limited overs formats.

Fastest ODI Century

De Villiers currently holds the record for the fastest century in ODI cricket. This came in a match between South Africa and the West Indies at Johannesburg and he passed three figures from just 31 balls.

AB went on to make 149 from 44 deliveries in an innings that included nine fours and 16 sixes.

Fastest 50 in ODI

At the time of writing, De Villiers also holds the record for the fastest 50 in ODIs. Not surprisingly, it came up in the same game as his fastest century, against the West Indies in Johannesburg in 2015.

AB reached that half century milestone from just 16 deliveries.

Fastest 150 in ODI

That innings in 2015 ended with AB De Villiers just one run short of a 150 score. He has, however, scored the fastest 150 in One Day Internationals and this came at the 2015 World Cup at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Once again, the West Indies were the unfortunate opponents as AB passed the milestone from 64 balls before going on to make an unbeaten 162 from 66 deliveries.

Consecutive Test Innings Without a Duck

One of AB De Villiers’ lesser known records came in test cricket. He holds the record for the longest number of consecutive innings without a duck.

From his debut against England in 2004, AB batted 78 times in tests before he was dismissed for zero by Bangladesh in 2008.

Final Thoughts

There are some who say that AB De Villiers was the best limited overs batter of all time, and those stats and records make it hard to argue with that theory. I knew he was good when I was watching him, but those statistics are incredible.

The two stats that really stand out for me are his averages in test cricket and ODIs. To maintain an average above 50 after so many games in both formats is remarkable.

It’s a great legacy, but he’s also been hard to replace. South Africa have struggled since the likes of De Villiers, Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn retired, but the efforts of Superman AB mean that he may be missed the most.