There was little AB de Villiers couldn’t do with the bat on the cricket field, and the recently retired South African champion feels it’s nothing but strong basics that helped him succeed in all three formats of the game.
“I base my plan on the same fundamentals and the same basics in all three of the formats that I play in. I’ve never changed that. The only thing that changes is my mindset a little bit at times,” he told The Telegraph.
“I’ve always kept it very simple. I’m a big believer that basics stay the same for all the formats. I don’t overthink things. I want my mind to be 100 per cent clear so I try not to think about too many things.”
Every batsman has his own process that helps him get into the zone before facing a delivery. It may be a simple breathing exercise that helps the focus, or a complex groove that helps them get into the mood. De Villiers, too, had his specific way of getting ready at the crease.
“I’ll have a bit of a pre-ball routine. I’ll make my mark, and then once I switch on and the bowler’s coming in, I try and think of absolutely nothing,” he revealed.
“I try and make sure that I see the ball coming out of the bowler’s hands, and then my technique and my body take over. I clear my mind and see the ball out of the bowler’s hand – that’s all I think about in all three of the formats.”
De Villiers’ rise in the sport saw him become one of the most versatile and feared batsmen in world cricket, and a delight to watch. He credits his undying passion towards the game for his spectacular performances.
“I’ve had 100 per cent passion and love for the sport from a very young age, and I don’t think it’s something you can teach a youngster – it’s just a deep desire and a hunger and a love for something that you’re never going to give up,” he said.
“So I was always going to try as much as I can, as hard as I could, to become the best player in the world.”
Like every other highly-successful athlete, de Villiers stresses on striking the right balance between training and rest.
“I realised at the age of 28-29 that I felt my game was in a really good place. But I needed to have energy on the pitch, otherwise I would also leave some of my performance there. So my training became really important to me, but I’ve managed it really well,” he said.
“They were short and sweet training sessions – making sure that I do quality stuff, but not for long – and I take the confidence into the game with a lot of energy.”
What a day of Test cricket! A very late Kagiso Rabada wicket has reduced Australia to 180/5 at stumps, just 41 runs ahead of South Africa. Earlier, AB de Villiers set up the game nicely for the hosts, with 126 not out.#SAvAUS Scorecard ➡️ https://t.co/ZWU7vOm1bo pic.twitter.com/iO2VzQZM6f
— ICC (@ICC) March 11, 2018
Despite being one of the most complete stroke-players in the history of the game, de Villiers knew how to stay put in challenging situations in the longest format of the game too. While his white-ball career highlighted his natural talent and ability, his red-ball career was a testament to his temperament.
“I think my most memorable knocks have always been in the longer version of the game – Test cricket – and none better than that last hundred that I scored in PE (Port Elizabeth) against the Australians,” he said of the 126* he scored in over four hours in a team total of 382.
“That was the most enjoyable series (South Africa won 3-1) in my life. I had doubts that I would come back, I always wanted to just come and play for another season or two. I wasn’t 100 per cent sure that I’m going to finish after the Australian series, but the plan was to come back, and I’m really proud of the fact that I could come back and played two of my best series for my country.”