When is the peak?

Many times when an individual’s sporting career explodes in a crescendo of brilliance we are left wondering just what he or she is capable of achieving in the future.

We instinctively ask ourselves “what next?”. Unless they are very obviously playing in their farewell season or have already announced an imminent retirement, it almost doesn’t matter what stage of their career they are at, or how old they are. Spectators and fans are always looking forward to the next match, the next performance, the next record.

Yet, often, that magnificent, incredulous performance IS the peak. There is no more to come. It is hard to know when an athlete has reached their peak. Sometimes they get there far too soon. Will Wayde van Niekerk ever reach the heights of his Rio 400 metres again?

Will AB de Villiers ever be the same again? When he was smashing a century off 31 balls against the West Indies we wondered whether, or even when he would do it again. Perhaps even less than 30 balls!

Then came the emotional smash of the World Cup semi-final and the physical damage to the elbow. Six months on the sidelines and now the resignation from the one role he always aspired to and which kept him going through all the pain and frustration of the rehab – the Test captaincy.

Six months at home with his wife and one-year-old son. It’s going to be hard to give that up for extended periods back on the road and months at a time in hotel beds. Sure, Danielle and AB junior will still be keen and able to travel for a while but the novelty wears off, especially when Dad is working most of the time.

AB has confounded the doubters and broken convention with ease for most of his career so he may well bounce back into international cricket more refreshed and motivated than at any time in the last decade, he may even be back at his best for the New Zealand tour in February and then be better than ever for the Champions Trophy and four Test matches in England next winter.

He may also choose a different path in a year or so, one on which he spends a month a year playing in India, Australia and the Caribbean and earns 10 times as much as he does playing for his country. That would be the wise and prudent option. He has given more and done more for his country than most sportsmen could dream of. But he is also a proud Protea and the role of unhindered, relaxed senior pro might just suit him more than he expects.

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