By Lokendra Pratap Sahi
Calcutta (The Telegraph): AB de Villiers, who has been fantastic in the last couple of years and has been rewarded with South Africa’s ODI and T20 captaincy, spoke to The Telegraph at the ITC Sonar on Saturday morning.
AB’s debut was in 2004-05 and, eight seasons on, he’s averaging a superb 49.16 in Tests and exactly 49.00 in ODIs. Plus, count on him behind the stumps.
The following are excerpts:
Do you see yourself as an all-rounder?
A I guess, yes. There aren’t a lot of other guys in the South African team who can bat/bowl and wear the big gloves... You certainly won’t find Jacques (Kallis) standing behind the wickets. If he does, be ready for 40-50 extras! You need a specialist and if he bats in the top four-five, then he’s an all-rounder.
Kallis, for one, believes that on current form across the three formats, you’re the world’s No.1 batsman. Do you take it as a huge compliment?
It’s an amazing compliment... I’ve looked up to Jacques all my life and he’s helped me both technique-wise and in the mental side of the game... Jacques is a role model ... Two-three years ago, he’d impressed upon me the importance of consistency. I haven’t forgotten that. I listen to what Jacques says and I follow what he does. What he’s achieved is just awesome... In my view, Jacques has been the greatest batsman-cum-bowler.
International cricket has its own pressures. What’s it like in the Indian Premier League (IPL), turning out for a franchise and having to deal with owners?
(Animatedly) Ah, the pressure of the IPL is probably the most dangerous.
Why do you say that?
Because of the high expectations placed on you... You’re expected to perform every time you take the field... If you don’t, you feel like a failure and that can hurt you mentally... I know of players who’ve taken a beating after failing in the IPL... If you don’t understand yourself and if you don’t understand your game, then you’re in a dangerous space. You need to be aware of the zone you’re in. If not, well, it could be damaging for your career.
But aren’t the expectations high in international cricket too?
Yes, but those expectations are different.
In what way?
Franchises pay you very good money and look after you very well, but... There are limited overseas players in a squad and no more than four in the playing XI... So, the pressure is enormous. The franchise makes you understand that you’ve got to perform. If you don’t and if you aren’t a strong kid, then it can get very difficult.
T20 is seeing plenty of improvisation from batsmen...
Often, you improvise when you’re desperate to score and you can’t put the ball away. Even when I improvise, I keep it simple and keep my head still... I may go for extravagant shots, but I don’t forget the basics.
What’s your take on the switch-hit, made famous by Kevin Pietersen?
My view is that the switch-hit shouldn’t be allowed. Look, I do play the reverse-sweep, but I don’t change my grip or my stance.
How do you handle pressure?
I believe I know my game very well... Also, there’s more to life than cricket... Once you understand that, you don’t fear (failure) that much... I take it one day at a time and give it my best shot.
Your preferred way of relaxing...
A dip in the pool, a bit of shopping, movies... Time with my fiancee (Danielle Swart) and friends.
Are you particular about the movies you watch?
I like watching Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Shah Rukh Khan... I performed with him in Durban early last year... It was quite an experience and I found him to be so humble. He’s a tremendous guy.
Danielle and you got engaged at the Taj Mahal. Who proposed?
(Laughs) I did! It was my first trip to the mind-blowing monument and I did some reading before going there... I proposed just before dusk, when we were on the way out of the Taj Mahal.
When do the two of you intend marrying?
Next year, that’s our plan.
Is Danielle with you in Calcutta?
She’s gone back home, after spending a fortnight with me. She has a degree in investment management and works for Coronation Fund Managers.
Where do you see yourself five years from now, when you’ll be 33?
Married, with kids... Still playing for South Africa, hopefully.
Do you set goals?
No. As I’ve said, I take it one day at a time and try to be the best guy that I can be.
The last one... You’re already South Africa’s ODI and T20 captain, but are you getting impatient to lead in Test cricket as well?
Not at all. Graeme Smith has been fantastic and, the day he goes, South Africa will lose a massive brick in the wall.