The first time I met Abraham Benjamin De Villiers, I was part of a Standard Bank sponsored South African Barmy Army called Amabuthu.
It didn't take off. We went around the country and supported the Proteas when England toured here in 2005.
Remember the tour wherein Kevin Petersen made his feelings known about the quota system and his fall out with South African administrators? The series that put KP on the front page of all the English newspapers?
He had an outstanding series, averaging 151 at a strike rate of 105, he scored 3 hundreds and 1 fifty for a total of 454 in 6 innings. The next best batsman in the series was HH Gibbs with 356 runs. A star was born.
KP's hairstyle (unlike mine) at the time was less outstanding. KP had like a diagonal MoHawk that was dyed blonde.
It looked like a chihuahua head that was spawned on the border of Springs and Brakpan.
Arrogant and self assured KP was bitter not to have been able to make the cut into the Proteas set up and even had the three lions tattooed on his arm. Earrings in tow (this was the man that would later give Piers Morgan butterflies in his stomach) he scored a couple of half centuries and won nail biting games for England during that series. I suspect going through Piers Morgan's Twitter timeline KP has progressed from butterflies to a semi.
Now you might be thinking what's that got to do with AB? Well AB made his ODI debut in that series. I remember that day when he walked out with Biff. He walked right passed me and I said something like "Geluk AB" and he replied "Ek moet vandag a 100 kry" which means I need to get a century today.
You see KP scored 108 in the same game and the Proteas had to chase down 270 set by England. It was on day/ night game on a Bloemfontein track that played well during the day but a bit dodgy at night as the lights wasn't really as good as was the case with other grounds around the country.
It was a humdinger of a game that one. South Africa needed 8 runs from the last over that was to be bowled by Kabir Ali. That over was one best overs ever bowled in an ODI in my opinion. Mark Boucher on 11 of 9 and Shaun Pollock 15 of 9 were at the crease. 8 runs should have been easy. Especially since the first ball was a no ball which Boucher dispatched for a 4. We needed 3 runs off 5 balls. Boucher was caught by Giles the next ball but the batsmen crossed. After a dot ball Pollock took a single off the third ball from the over. Ashy P was then run out off the first ball he faced which brought Pollock back on strike.
South Africa needed two runs from two balls with Pollock back on strike and Andrew Hall the new batsmen at the non strikers end.
We had this.
Pollock took a single and the scores were tied. In trying to hit the winning run off the last ball with the field in all saving a single Andrew Hall left his crease in an attempt to clear the infield but completely missed and was stumped by Jones and the match ended in a tie.
AB didn't get a hundred that day. He got in and got out when he was on 20. What struck me that day was the remorse he showed that the Proteas didn't win that night. He was genuinely upset that the team didn't win. It was as if the loss was as a result of him only getting 20.
The same remorse and humility he showed when we lost against India at the 2015 World Cup group stage, explaining how his run out effected the result. Even on that night in Bloemfontein AB didn't make excuses.
He was the first to admit that his shot selection after getting in was less then desirable. That humility and pride to wear the Proteas Shirt was gonna be the foundation for what was to come.
The same humility he shower after breaking almost every batting record in the Pink ODI and the most recent batting genius against the Windies in same group stage at the World Cup.
That day... That night in Bloemfontein a star was born. A star that only wants to play for the fans. A star that only wants to make his teammates and country proud. A star without pride... A superstar.
Catch Joey Rasdien's Five-For each Monday and Friday at 4:45pm on Afternoon Drive with Xolani Gwala.