No doubt about it: AB is the best
AB de Villiers is currently the best wicketkeeper-batsman in test cricket. Not so long ago there were many who doubted whether he could combine his considerable talents with the bat successfully with the rigorous demands of wicket-keeping. I felt from the outset that he would do this successfully. It took a while for him to adapt to the position but since the end of the Australian tour he has made such a success of the job that no one else around the world can touch him.
The Indian supporters will no doubt disagree with me. They will be unanimously behind their skipper MS Dhoni as the best of his kind in the world. MS is certainly a class act, but at the moment AB is a better batsman and his keeping is as good. When we look at the other test-playing nations, the cupboard in this respect is rather bare.
England's keeper Matt Prior is next in line. He is a good allrounder and performs well for his country but again, he's just not in the same class as De Villiers. No one from the other test-playing nations comes close, so having De Villiers bat at No 5 and keeping wicket is a huge plus for the Proteas.
He is one of the best batsmen in the world so he qualifies as a true allrounder in the same mould as a Jacques Kallis. This balances the team up very well and allows an extra specialist batsman at No 7. Not many teams can afford this luxury.
Initially De Villiers was a bit rusty behind the stumps. He hadn't kept wicket for about a ten-year period so there was a lot of work to be done to get him up to international standard. The effort he has put in over the past few months is paying dividends now. His keeping technique has improved a great deal and his performance behind the stumps at the Wanderers was faultless. His footwork in particular was a joy to watch.
It is clear that he enjoys the role as well. There was a school of thought that suggested that he didn't want to keep. Fortunately this is not the case at all and he has embraced the job. In fact it is clear that he relishes the challenge.
The fact that his batting is back to its very best is a huge plus as well. He had a few footwork issues a while ago but since he scored that century in Perth his footwork – much like in his keeping – is excellent. His balance as a consequence is just about perfect.
Barring injury the "caught De Villiers bowled Steyn" scenario will become commonplace on the test stage. It may not quite reach the "caught Marsh bowled Lillee" numbers but it won't be far off. The brilliance of Dale Steyn will ensure this.
Steyn is nowhere near done and provided he stays fit, his considerable skill will ensure that AB de Villiers is always in business behind the stumps. I enjoy watching the Proteas play but there is something very special about the Steyn/De Villiers combination.
Long may it last.