London: England's transformation from "rock bottom" at the last World Cup to being among the favourites to win the Champions Trophy has earned the respect of teams around the world according to AB de Villiers.
The Champions Trophy starts on June 1 when England play Bangladesh, but before then there is a three-match series against South Africa. They arrived in Hove on Wednesday night for Friday's warm-up game against Sussex and pose a real challenge for England being the world's No. 1 ranked team in one-day cricket and beating them in South Africa last year.
But since the 2015 World Cup England have lost only one series at home, a 2-3 defeat to world champions Australia that went to a decider. They are the bookies' favourites to win the Champions Trophy and play in a style of De Villiers at his best. A super confident Ben Stokes is back from the IPL where he impressed some of the world's best, including De Villiers.
"I remember watching the 2015 World Cup thinking they were really low and hit rock bottom. They have done really well to come back from that," he said.
"They are obviously a very talented group of players. The way they came back from that earned a lot of respect around the world. They must be one of the favourites playing in their own country having played some good cricket of late.
"He (Stokes) is a fantastic cricketer with bat and ball. He definitely has got something special about him. He had a really good IPL and is a stand out player for them."
AB de Villiers during a news conference in Hove on Thursday. (Getty Images)
South Africa had their first practice session on Thursday and De Villiers was hit a nasty blow on the inside of the knee while batting in the Hove nets. He arrives in England after a run of low scores in the IPL playing in a team of superstars for the Royal Challengers Bangalore that finished bottom of the league.
He has two warm-up games here and in Northampton on Sunday to acclimatise before the first ODI on Wednesday at Headingley in what will be a brief stay personally in England.
De Villiers has not played Test cricket since the series against England 18 months ago and is resting from the one here later in the summer.
He insists he is still committed to Test cricket, but has played his last five-day game in England.
"I have not retired at all. I watched every single ball the boys have played in the last while. It was great to sit back and see a different angle and side of things. I am definitely not out of it," he said.
"I realised I am the best I can be when I am fresh and looking forward to playing cricket instead of the other way round and being in good form but being tired while playing. Spending time with the family has done me the world of good and it is about finding the balance between time away from the game and time working hard and trying to win games.
"It was the decision for this year. We will see where we go. I am not going to change my decision. I will look like an indecisive human being if I do that.
"It is important for me to make sure I am feeling physically and mentally healthy every game I play and that is what I decided to do. There is an off-season coming in July and August. I will assess things then. We have a series at home against Bangladesh and then we will sit down and have a look at where I am at physically and mentally."
The Daily Telegraph