AB de Villiers: Backyard to ‘best player of our times’
AB de Villiers, whom Virat Kohli called the “best player of our times”, announced his decision to retire from all forms of cricket having lost his hunger for the game, bringing to an end a 17-year career where he established himself as one of South Africa’s greats.
De Villiers had retired from all international formats in May 2018 but was in talks about a return to the limited-overs side for the T20 World Cup before deciding against playing for the Proteas again.
The 37-year-old was still involved in franchise cricket, last playing in the Indian Premier League for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), who described his retirement as the “end of an era”.
“It has been an incredible journey, but I have decided to retire from all cricket,” De Villiers said in a statement on Friday.
“Ever since the backyard matches with my older brothers, I have played the game with pure enjoyment and unbridled enthusiasm. Now, at the age of 37, that flame no longer burns so brightly.
“That’s the reality I must accept — and, even if it may seem sudden, that is why I am making this announcement today. I’ve had my time. Cricket has been exceptionally kind to me.”
An explosive and entertaining batsman who also wore the wicketkeeping gloves on and off, De Villiers has often been referred to as “Mr 360” for his wide range of shots which found all corners of the boundary.
De Villiers retires with over 20,000 runs to his name in Tests, ODIs and T20Is for South Africa and 9,424 runs in T20s.
He holds the record for the fastest ODI century, reaching triple figures in just 31 deliveries in a knock of 149 against the West Indies in Johannesburg in 2015, smashing 16 sixes and nine boundaries.
De Villiers is a much loved cricketer in India as well, much of it being for his long association with RCB, which began in 2011. He has played 156 matches for RCB and scored 4,491 runs. He is the second all-time leading run scorer behind Kohli.
“I have had a long and fruitful time playing for RCB. Eleven years have just whizzed by and leaving the boys is extremely bittersweet… I would like to thank the RCB management, my friend Virat Kohli, teammates, coaches, support staff, fans, and the entire RCB family for showing faith and supporting me all through these years. It has been a memorable journey with RCB… I am a RCBian forever.”
The admirers of the South African cricketer are many, but Kohli perhaps tops the list.
“To the best player of our times and the most inspirational person I’ve met, you can be very proud of what you’ve done and what you’ve given to RCB my brother. Our bond is beyond the game and will always be,” Kohli, who has shared the RCB dressing room with De Villiers since 2011, tweeted. “This hurts my heart but I know you’ve made the best decision for yourself and your family like you’ve always done. I love you,” Kohli added.
Former India batter VVS Laxman tweeted: “Congratulations on a fabulous career. One of the true modern day greats and an inspiration for so many. Wish you the very best in your second innings.”
Former Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene too doffed his hat, tweeting: “Congratulations on a fabulous career.. brilliant guy on and off the field. Wishing you all the very best in your future. Pure class.”
The current generation of players too are in awe of De Villiers.
“The best I’ve ever seen, and someone who I’ve always looked up to! Took the game to another level singlehandedly mr360,” said England’s wicketkeeper-batter Sam Billings. Billings’ compatriot Jason Roy wrote: “What a player and what a man. Absolute genius and an even better human. Thanks for what you did for the game!”