Exclusive article by Bacher for DNA.
I have a very close relationship with AB de Villiers. I spoke with him today (Wednesday) for about 20 minutes. He started playing international cricket in 2004-05 against against England, till 2018. That’s 14 years. After 14 years of international cricket, he is mentally and physically exhausted. He explained to me he nearly gave up two years ago. He had that elbow operation and was told by his orthopaedic surgeon to take a rest for six months and he was able to re-energise himself during that break.
He was hoping to go on to the World Cup in 2019. He told me he is really mentally and physically exhausted.
He is a superstar. He says the travelling, the pressure, the adulation, the flights put tremendous pressure on him. He says everyday he travels, there is pressure on him. He never says no to autographs. He is always friendly when he goes to the airport, to the hotel.
Today (Wednesday), he said that he felt a bit relieved. He has a family with two kids. He hardly sees them.
All good things have to come to an end. They can’t go on and on indefinitely. What I have said to South African newspapers is: ‘You should be thankful to him. For 14 years, he has given so much joy and pleasure to millions and millions of cricket watchers at the grounds, particularly in India’.
It is high pressure. You can’t take it any more. He just feels it is time to call it a day and one must respect his decision.
You can’t say that with his retirement, South Africa’s chances of winning the 2019 World Cup have gone.
I have always said that two best batsmen SA have ever had are Graeme Pollock and Barry Richards. As a batsman, AB is that league, he is in that same class.
All greats have to retire and new ones come through. That’s the evolution of international cricket. We thought our bowling will fall apart, but Kagiso Rabada is probably the best fast bowler in the world today. New ones come through, that’s sport.
His decision has got nothing to do with Royal Challengers Bangalore not qualifying for the IPL play-offs. We must say ‘thank you’ to him. The adulation he has got in India is unbelievable. He probably promoted South Africa better than any other person in this country, in India. I can see the adulation.
He is probably our best ambassador. He is the most innovative batsman I have ever seen.
He has retired from all international cricket. He needs a break. We must give him an opportunity. And then he can think about his future as far as the T20 leagues around the world are concerned.
(As told to G Krishnan)
*Dr Ali Bacher is a former South African Test cricket captain and an administrator of the United Cricket Board of South Africa