Ashleigh Barty’s retirement in March when she was number one in women’s tennis and was just 25 is “bizarre to explain”, South African cricket legend AB de Villiers told TAUT before they don’t team up for a golf event. Barty’s relatively short career contrasts with that of 38-year-old de Villiers, who, after more than a decade at the top, only retired from all formats of international cricket in 2018 and from playing entirely the last year. De Villiers first met cricket-loving Barty when he played in Australia’s Big Bash League in 2019 and they will reunite when they team up at the inaugural Icons Series golf event in Jersey City from 30 June to July 1.
An American team led by Freddie Couples will face a team from the rest of the world – led by ‘The Big Easy’ Ernie Els, one of de Villier’s sports idols – with 14 sports stars in each formation.
While Barty and avid golfer de Villiers are on the rest of the world team, swimming legend Michael Phelps and boxing great Oscar de la Hoya are on the USA team.
Three-time Grand Slam winner Barty – whom de Villiers describes as having become a friend – has already taken a break from tennis, playing cricket instead for the Brisbane Heat in the 2015-16 Women’s Big Bash.
But this time, the exit seems final.
“It’s weird to explain,” de Villiers told TAUT in a phone interview.
“I think the best answer is that each person has their own way of maneuvering in their career, some for as long as possible.
“The whole world respects his decision. I’d like to think stepping away might be a relief, but it’s an incredible age to retire.”
De Villiers was one of those rare birds that averaged over 50 in the Test and One Day International formats.
He says he hasn’t shied away since lifting the curtain on his glittering career which saw him captain South Africa in all three formats.
“I feel relieved to be sitting here,” he said.
“I feel quite happy that I made the right decision even though I missed the game and I will be forever grateful to the sport.
“But like Ash, there’s peace of mind where I am.
“I’m really happy to look back on my career with good memories.
“There are no regrets. Yes, I made mistakes but no regrets.”
De Villiers – known as ‘Mr 360’ for his strokeplay and ‘Superman’ for his surprisingly agile on the court – says he was lucky not to have had too many bad runs with the bat during of her career.
However, he sympathizes with his close friend, Indian superstar Virat Kohli, with whom he played in Indian Premier League franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore.
‘King Kohli’ had been through a rough patch, including two successive golden ducks before hitting 58 on Saturday. He also failed to score a century in over 100 games in any format.
“As a batsman, you’re only one or two bad shots away from bad form,” de Villiers said.
“If this keeps happening to you, it’s hard to bounce back.”
De Villiers says he hasn’t been in contact with Kohli, but says the struggle is largely becoming one of the spirit.
“I can’t put a percentage on it, but it’s the mind and the power of the mind that’s the main battle,” he said.
“You don’t become a bad player overnight. Virat would know that and I know that. I think it’s the way you think and decide.
“You need a clear mind and fresh energy every time you play and then you can find a way out of a hole.”
While de Villiers has made a lot of money from the T20 format, he is a strong supporter of the Test game. In 114 Tests between 2004 and 2018, he racked up 8,765 runs for South Africa, averaging just over 50.
“Test cricket is my number one format,” he said.
“I think most players feel that way. There’s nothing more rewarding than staying five days with your team.
“That’s the ultimate challenge. I don’t know why anyone would say they don’t want that challenge in the tougher formats.
“I would stop watching cricket if Test cricket was no more.”
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