There is absolutely no denying that the cricketing fraternity was expecting the next World Cup to be AB de Villiers’ swansong. The coveted title was one of the few accolades missing from the South Africa star’s illustrious career. Moreover, many felt that the added responsibility of leading South Africa to their first-ever World Cup title would further motivate de Villers to play the next edition.
But on a fine May morning this year, a ‘tired’ AB de Villiers decided he had no more motivation left in him to play international cricket. On May 23, the Proteas star dropped the bombshell by announcing his retirement from all forms of the game with immediate effect. It ended one of the most beautiful chapters in the history of the game.
De Villiers will go down as one of the finest ever batsmen in the history of the game. No matter what the format was or what the conditions were, he rarely failed. If his traditional stroke-play made the traditionalists drool then his scarcely-believable wide array of unorthodox shots left this generation gasping for breath,
He scored a staggering 20,014 international runs (8765 in Tests, 9577 in ODIs and 1672 in T20Is). He also finished his career with a batting average over 50 in both Tests, and ODIs.
The right-hander also holds the record for the fastest 50, fastest 100 and fastest 150 in ODIs, all coming against the Windies. He smashed a 31-ball 100 in Johannesburg in 2015 and hit a 66-ball 162 in the 2015 World Cup encounter in Sydney.
But his abrupt retirement shocked many if not all. However, de Villiers knew his time was up and he has no regrets over his decision.
“It was time. It was nothing against anyone, but I just felt the time was right. I have been playing for over 14 years, and I was tired,” he told IOL.
He further made it clear that he had made peace with himself as far as winning the World Cup was concerned. The batting star admitted that he would have loved to win the trophy but said that it would not have defined his career.
“For a long time, the World Cup was a massive goal. But, in the last few years, I have realised that it isn’t realistic to measure yourself purely on what you achieve in that tournament. That will not be the be-all and end-all of my career,” he said.
“Yes, I would have loved to win it, but I have great memories from World Cups. The 2007 tournament – my first – was very special. We fell short against Australia, when we tried to play too much cricket too soon, but that shift in mentality probably helped us to go over there and win the Test series we then won over there.
“Personally, I scored my first ODI century in that 2007 tournament, and I loved the whole experience of being in the Caribbean.
“The same goes for the others, in 2011 and in 2015. India has always been close to my heart, because of the passion for cricket, and then obviously 2015 was an amazing game. We fell on the wrong side of it, but we gave it everything,” he added.
De Villiers ended his career on a good note, helping South Africa beat India and Australia in Test series at home this year. He was the standout performer for his side as he played all the seven Tests. He scored six fifties and a hundred in the seven Tests and was instrumental to South Africa’s success.
Speaking about the manner of his departure, he said:
“It was the best possible way to finish, against two great teams, in the best format of the game. There was a lot of motivation for me to do well, and for the team to do well. Series like that don’t come around too often.”