Insights that Echo Beyond the Echo Chamber


INTERVIEW | Azharuddin is the batter I respected most, says Fanie de Villiers

Fanie de Villiers said he cherished his time as an international cricketer.
| Photo Credit: P.K. Ajith Kumar

Fanie de Villiers has bowled to some of the world’s greatest batters of all time – including Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara. Who earned the most respect from him?

“Mohammed Azharuddin,” de Villers told The Hindu in an interview on an overcast morning at the SuperSport Park, during the second day of the first Test between South Africa and India.

“He was a wristy, stylish batter, but there were others too; I respected him because he could frustrate a bowler.”

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The former South African quick elaborated: “The most respect that you get for a player is the one that doesn’t give you a chance to make plans against him. With that wristy flick, he could take a single and go to the other end; he was the best at it. With him, you can’t say, I’m going to tie him down here for two or three balls and try variations.”

de Villiers, who had a fine career for South Africa despite making his international debut only at 29, also has a lot of respect for a teammate of Azharuddin’s – Manoj Prabhakar.

Developing off-cutters

“Manoj Prabhakar helped me develop my off-cutters,” he said. “We used to chat and he told me as bowlers we should do something different. He said he was warming up with spinners and felt we could try a sort of slow spin ball.

“And we decided to try it at the nets and felt the variation would work. That was how it started: slow balls from a full run-up with quick-arm action. Then I got Tendulkar out. Prabhakar was also successful.”

de Villiers, who took 85 wickets from 18 Tests and 95 wickets from 83 ODIs, believes India now has a group of pacers that are better than those who came before them, in the form of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj.

IPL Factor

“I think the IPL is a big reason for the growth of India’s fast bowling,” he said. “They could rub shoulders with the best fast bowlers from around the world.”

Looking back at his career, he said he was happy that he could play international cricket though he may have missed six or seven years of that because of the apartheid policy in South Africa.

“That some of our men played in County cricket in England helped us; they shared their experience with us youngsters,” he said. “And we had good infrastructure and academies.”

He cherishes his match-winning effort against Australia in the Sydney Test – only his second – in 1993-94. He took six for 43 to give South Africa an unlikely five-run victory.

He also fondly recalls visiting Mother Teresa in Kolkata. “The two women I admired most were Mother Teresa and Princess Diana,” he said. “And they died within a week of each other.”


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