AB de Villiers’ popularity transcends results. Irrespective of the results for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) or for South Africa, de Villiers remains one of the most-loved sportsmen in the world. On Monday, AB’s RCB were taking on Mumbai Indians (MI) at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Amidst the likes of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, the ‘Aye-Bee-Aye-Bee’ chants refused to fizzle out. In an exclusive conversation with mid-day, de Villiers spoke about Virat Kohli’s injury, RCB’s disappointing season and Champions Trophy.
With the country vs club debate making rounds, many feel that de Villiers could have skipped Indian Premier League (IPL) 2017 to remain fit for the Champions Trophy where he is supposed to lead South Africa. Injuries have restricted his national appearances in recent times, but de Villiers, now 33, believes that IPL has given him a good practice platform: “It would have been a risk not to play [in the IPL] as I would have got horribly out of form. At least I get to play games. It is not too much cricket in the IPL. It’s T20 cricket, which is not hard on the body. It is much more important for me to play white-ball cricket to make sure I practice well and get ready for the Champions Trophy. It is the same for the other guys. Some of the players took a break from the IPL and that is also good for them because they have played more cricket than me. I think we have the balance very well.”
De Villiers has been subject to criticism off late for prioritising franchise tournaments and limited-overs cricket ahead of Tests. He emphasised on the taxing nature of Test cricket: “Test cricket is harder than any other format. That is why I felt I needed to break away from the format. It is really hard on the body and the mind. It is a long time away from home. It is never a short little trip. The answer is [which is the toughest?] — Test cricket, by a long way.”
De Villiers denied coming up with reasons for RCB’s failure this year. He does not want to get into the ‘excuse’ mode. He added that the mood in the camp is still good and the players are looking forward to give fans something to cheer about: “We know we have the opportunity to play three good games of cricket to finish off the season. Hopefully, we can win three in a row. The most important thing is to give our fans something to cheer about. They are loyal and have always come back to support us. The mood is fantastic. It’s a group of great human beings and that is much larger than any sport you participate in. We are a bunch of good friends. Unfortunately, the performance wasn’t there this season.”
Last year, Kohli and de Villiers’ forms were among the foremost reasons for the side to end runners-up. Though both the star players have had a decent outing this season, the results have been disappointing for the star-studded side. Speaking on the issue if Kohli’s injury has affected his form, de Villiers said: “He is still playing well. He has not played all the games, but it’s difficult to replicate four hundreds in a season like he did last year. I do not think that is ever going to happen again in the IPL. He is still a fantastic player. He played a beautiful knock in Rajkot. It’s just a matter of not gelling together as a team.”
RCB play their next game on Friday when they take on Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. With no chance of proceeding to the next round, RCB look forward to spoil others’ party.