No matter how hard it is to accept, all cricket fans should stand and salute AB de Villiers on his retirement and wish him well.
What makes it all the more heart-breaking is that AB is in the form of his life; in all forms of the game. His Test performances against India and Australia recently, and his amazing athleticism and unrivalled skill in the IPL, point to a man at the very peak of his powers.
Despite a tsunami of criticism which came his way when he took a sabbatical from Test cricket recently, he was steadfast in his view that it was the right thing to do; and it soon became apparent that he was right, returning with a series of memorable performances.
He even rated his series-defining hundred against Australia in Port Elizabeth, where he scored an unbeaten 126 off 146 deliveries, as ‘one of his finest’.
We dared to hope that we will be watching him for some time to come, perhaps even to lead the Proteas to a cherished World Cup victory.
It goes without saying that, without him, the Proteas are a much-weakened team… and I am sure there are many who will cry that he has retired too early. There will be many who will criticise him for his decision, for deserting the Proteas; as if the fans have some sort of inalienable right to his services.
I will hazard a guess that he will reappear in T20 leagues around the world, but it is not for us to make any judgments on that decision.
He has truly earned his place in Proteas history and, indeed, even cricket history. His 114 Tests, 228 ODIs and 78 T20Is are his footprint on the game, while his 8,765 Test runs, 9,577 ODI runs and 1,672 T20 runs are his legacies.
His performances have come at a price which he is no longer willing to pay. He is again steadfast in the view that this is the right thing to do. We must respect that decision.
His departure, so sudden and in such joyous form, leaves us with a huge sense of bereavement but, no matter how hard it is, we must let him go. With our prayers and our good wishes.
We salute a great cricketer. One of the greatest of all time.
Photo: Deryck Foster/BackpagePix