Cape Town (Agencies): Retired South African details difficulties of dealing with the pressures and demands of international cricket Four months on from his retirement from international cricket, ex-Proteas batsman AB de Villiers has described life as a superstar of the sport as “unbearable at times”.
De Villiers played his last Test against Australia in April, having spent the final years of his career in and out of the game due to both injuries and the increasing need for personal and family time away from the limelight.
The 34-year-old, who history will remember as one of the greatest batsmen across all three formats, is set to continue to play T20 cricket in domestic competitions that suit his schedule.
In a wide-ranging interview with the UK’s Independent newspaper, de Villiers said the role of international sporting hero was not one that came naturally to him throughout his time at the top. “I’ve always been shy,” he said. “I don’t really like attention too much. It’s … quite ironic. But I get embarrassed quite a bit.”
To better handle the rigours of the international game, De Villiers ceded the Test captaincy to Faf du Plessis in 2016, and last year did the same with the ODI captaincy, and in January his return to Test cricket looked to be for the long-term when he declared himself to be “in the best form of my life”.
But the pull of family and the constant pressures of expectation from his home nation as well as the demands of a hectic schedule were never far away from having an impact. “It’s been unbearable at times: the pressure you have to face, performing day in and day out,” he said. “The expectations that you put on yourself, from fans, from the country, from coaches.
“It is huge, and it’s something that’s on your mind all the time as a cricketer. And it’s definitely something that I’m not going to miss. “I’m very happy to have stepped away. Absolutely no regrets.”
De Villiers appeared to intimate the existence of an unspoken acceptance among players when it comes to burnout or fatigue, and suggested discussions around the topic would be healthy. “I was prepared to embrace it, to fight the pressure,” he said. “And I’m happy that I did.
“But it certainly takes his toll after a while.
“I feel there is room for players to be more honest about it, having systems in place to make sure they keep fresh and mentally healthy.
“I was certainly not mentally ill at the time, but I can relate to the fact that pressure can really drive you down, and make you so tired.”
The right-hander, who scored 47 international centuries, says he is well aware he won’t be able to replicate those kinds of moments in his retirement, but for now, he is OK with it.
“I know nothing will compare to that feeling of scoring hundreds in a big game,” he said. “Thousands of people chanting your name.
“But in all fairness, I don’t miss it. Not yet. Maybe a year down the line.
“I’m still going to play for a few years; I’ll still play a little bit around the world. But on my own terms.”