Dubai: South Africa’s legendary batsman AB De Villiers has always entertained fans in all formats of the game through his delectable batting style. His unique approach to the game makes him an entertaining cricketer to talk to about various aspects of the game. The way he demolished bowling attacks and the strokes he produced have made people wonder whether he is superhuman.
Through an in depth interview with Gulf News, after taking charge as the brand ambassador of the Emirates Cricket Board’s UAE T20x — the first international T20 league — De Villiers explains on what made him one of the finest batsmen in world cricket.
GULF NEWS: How does it feel on an associate country like UAE staging T20 league and on you being named as the brand ambassador of the event?
De Villiers: It’s great. I think it is about time they did it. I think it’s going to be really good for the game locally. The Emirates Cricket Board wants to create legacy both locally and also internationally. What I really like about this tournament is that it is growth and development of the game which is at its heart. It’s going to be a tournament for the youngsters and emerging players. It will be a great opportunity for them to play alongside some of the best players in the world and that is why I decided to get involved. It has a got a really nice concept going and I can see this tournament grow from strength to strength.
Do you think T20 leagues have spread the game around the world?
T20 as a format has made a great impact on cricket as a sport. It has drawn a lot more fans to the game and has made more people aware of the game around the world. So T20 cricket has been great in creating love for the game.
Unlike you many players have struggled to adapt from instant cricket to the longer version. How can that be avoided?
It’s not difficult to do. I’ve always said that the basics of the game still stay the same and don’t change a lot. The only thing that changes in T20 is your energy and mindset. In T20, it is a little bit more in a hurry while Test cricket is more of a test of your endurance. But the basics and the fundamentals of the game remains the same. So if you can adjust your confidence and belief and you prepare well definitely it can be done.
Do you think what happened to Indian batsmen in England is their inability to adapt from limited over to Test cricket or was it due to their players inability to play in unfamiliar conditions?
I feel that in the first Test India played some really good cricket and it could have gone either way. What happened in the second Test has happened to even the best of teams around the world. When you lose a Test, you lose a bit of momentum. It can happen when the opposition plays as well as England did as they came out guns blazing and played a really good game. So I don’t think you should analyse it too much. India might bounce back in the next Test, but let us wait and see.
T20 wasn’t popular when you started off but what did you do specially to become adored player in T20 format?
I have always been a big fan of the format. I remember the first T20 I played. I was so excited because it gave the opportunity to just to free yourself and to play more shots and be aggressive. I have always loved this format. Once I was good at it then I set a game plan and adapted a bit to get the best out of my skills. Everything gets easier with experience as you learn from your mistakes. Yes that is what I did, I learnt from my mistake and I got better.
How did you produce those breathtaking strokes? Did you practice specially to produce it or did it come naturally?
More naturally, but I did practice a lot on it. I am a big believer in adapting to the basics. I did play the same kind of strokes in all three formats. I made sure that I have the basics in place. The thing I did from Test cricket to T20 is to try and adapt to the format. In T20 I try and find a way to expose the bowler and to hit the ball to definite areas and that’s why those shots came out.
How has been your experience of playing in UAE?
I have fun memories. My biggest Test score is in Abu Dhabi (278 not out against Pakistan in November 2010). I have great memories of touring Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai and all are fantastic cities and I loved staying there. People in UAE are crazy about cricket and I’ve always found the stands intriguing as they love the game so much. I can’t see this tournament of being any different because I am sure the fans will get behind it. There will be greater attendance to the games and I am very excited to see how this tournament will go on.
How could you retire from international cricket when you were close to reaching 10,000-run marks in Tests and One Day Internationals?
I have never been a big fan of statistics and records. So I am very happy I retired before the 10,000 mark. I have never been a big believer in remaining in the limelight and having the spotlight on you. So I was very happy to walk away and am at peace in my heart that I made the right decision. I am looking forward to the next two to three years at the new challenges in my life.
How did you motivate yourself during playing days and what is your message to youngsters on how to enjoy cricket like you did?
I think anything in life, if it is your passion, it is easy to do. When you get up in the morning you need to practice hard at something that you love. I have always really enjoyed playing cricket. It is a big passion of mine and because of that I was always felt hungry to become better. If you have the passion in something you will never give up and will try and master it. So I had that passion from a very young age and I wanted to become one of the best players in the world and I was never going to give up until I tried and get close to that.
So what’s your plan for the future? Is it to keep on playing for Titans and in the Indian Premier League or are you likely to take up coaching or play a part in South African cricket administration?
I don’t see myself getting involved in administration or coaching. I think I do have the role to play to encourage some of the youngsters around the world and specifically in South Africa. I am happy to share my knowledge with everyone around the world, to whoever wants to learn on how to become a better player. I will still play a little bit over the next few years. The nice thing is that I can decide on how I will be involved.
Do you think more innovations are needed to keep the game exciting?
I think there should be great responsibility on the ICC to make sure they get the balance right between all the formats. I love Test cricket just the way it is and I don’t see any reason for it to be changed. If the four-day Test cricket and night games encourage people to watch the game more, then I am a big fan of it but other than that I would love the formats just to stay like it is now.