AB de Villiers
AB de Villiers (Getty Images)

It’s been three months since AB de Villiers dropped the retirement bombshell in May but the South African batsman is massively relieved at having made that leap and is happy that he shook the ‘unbearable’ pressure that comes with international cricket.

In an interview to The Independent, De Villiers revealed that his mind was constantly affected by the huge expectations from all around during his time as South Africa cricketer. “It’s been unbearable at times: the pressure you have to face, performing day in and day out,” De Villiers was quoted as saying. “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.”

De Villiers made his Test debut in 2004 against England and went on to clock 114 Tests, scored 8765 runs with 22 centuries and 45 fifties. He played 218 ODIs and scored 9577 runs with 25 hundreds and 53 half-centuries. He averaged over 50 in both the formats.

De Villiers, 34, was in no mood to sound politically correct. While extolling the feeling of scoring century in big matches, he says it’s something he’s not going to miss.

“I know nothing will compare to that feeling of scoring hundreds in a big game. Thousands of people chanting your name. But in all fairness, it’s definitely something that I’m not going to miss. Not yet. I’m very happy to have stepped away. Absolutely no regrets,” he said.

And he did not stopped there. He said cricketers who claim about being under no pressure are being dishonest with themselves and that being away from home for a significant period does have its consequences.

When probed whether there a sense of relief that now he doesn’t have to go through the grind of playing international cricket, De Villiers responded, “Massively. Yes. I know the right answer is probably to say I will always miss the game. But I truly believe that players who tell you they don’t feel the pressure of international cricket, being away from home for months at a time, are lying to everyone and themselves.

I was prepared to embrace it, to fight the pressure. And I’m happy that I did. But it certainly takes its 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,” he said.

While removing any doubts that he had developed mental issues, De Villiers said the expectations of performing every single game was energy sapping. “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,” he said.

De Villiers holds the record for the fastest hundred and 150 in ODI cricket and has built himself quite a reputation as a T20 star. His array of shots earned him the moniker of Mr. 360 and despite quitting international cricket, he will continue to play cricket for his local team Titans and Indian Premier League franchise Royal Challenges Bangalore.

“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,” he said.

Despite his massive fan following, De Villiers preffered being not the centre of attention. “I’ve always been shy. I don’t really like attention too much. It’s quite ironic. But I get embarrassed quite a bit. I prefer to be out of the spotlight, to be honest. I’ve always been that kind of personality.