'Natural for Virat to be tired, unfold his final chapter': AB de Villiers after Kohli absent from South Africa ODIs
AB de Villiers, in a chat with HT, discusses India's tour of South Africa, reflects on Proteas' World Cup 2023 run and shares thoughts on Virat Kohli's future.
Virat Kohli's decision to sit out the South Africa T20Is and ODIs could indicate an interesting shift in his career. At 35, Kohli is a two-time ICC trophy winner, carries the legacy of being India's most successful Test captain of all time and has achieved every ODI batting record that there is. A World Cup win would have been icing on the cake, but Kohli learnt it the hard way that endings are never always perfect. While he surely can carry on, just how long he intends to, remains a million-dollar question. By World Cup 2027, Virat will be 39, and although he has raised the fitness bar higher than anyone else, stretching for another four years looks a bridge too far to cross even for the mighty Kohli.
Having said that, if there's anyone who can provide a sneak peek into what's going on inside Kohli's mind, it's his former Royal Challengers Bangalore teammate AB de Villiers. Having played several seasons together and shared a unique brothership, de Villiers really hopes Kohli can carry on playing ODIs and Tests a little longer. In a freewheeling chat with Hindustan Times, de Villiers, Brand Ambassador of the SA20, spoke on a range of topics including India's upcoming tour of South Africa, his take on the Proteas' memorable World Cup 2023 campaign and what the future holds for Kohli.
We said it the last time as well, but do you think this is India's best chance to register a Test series win in South Africa given how they are back to a fully-strengthened squad. What will be their biggest challenge?
On paper, it seems to be the best chance. Looks like an inexperienced South Africa squad. I would definitely not underestimate any South African sporting team but yes, it is India's best chance yet. They are a very experienced side; they've travelled the world. They have won everywhere. They've been No. 1 in the world for a very long time. So I expect them to come out firing but you've got to look out for a competing South African team. They will not stand back. Definitely the best chance.
South Africa are blowing a little hot and cold. I do feel that when it matters most, they stand up. I expect them to have a fantastic series against India. I would be very wary of the India side though and they'll come with a lot of fire in their belly to want to win that first series in South Africa. But knowing the Proteas side, they would do their homework to make sure that doesn't happen.
Is the batting depth a concern for South Africa? Jansen is your No. 7 whereas other teams bat deeper. Jadeja for India, Cummins/Carey for Australia…
Looking at the World Cup – I know it's a different format – but it'll be a very similar top 5, top 6. There's a lot of talent. Jansen at 7 is quite high but he's shown that every time he's come in, he's made a difference. So you can't see him as a tail-ender anymore. At No. 7 to have a good all-rounder is not too high. Batting is a big strength of the South Africa team.
Given the amount of flak Temba Bavuma received at the end of last year's T20 World Cup, how impressed are you with the way he led South Africa at the World Cup?
I was one of the guys who in the very early stages thought that Temba might not be the right guy for the role. But he has proved everyone wrong. He looks very calm and composed when he's captaining the team and it always helps when you're scoring runs. He's been starting to find form as well, scoring some big hundreds and we would like to see that repeat in the Tests as well.
Anrich Nortje's injury was a big blow at the World Cup but the way the other pacers responded was amazing. How do you see that as a positive?
Anrich was a big blow in that World Cup. He was the fastest bowler in the world leading up to the World Cup. But Jansen stepped up, showing what he's made of. Rabada, Ngidi… the list goes on. All of them have got the experience now. Rabada has played all around the world and he is capable of leading that bowling attack.
You know Virat so well. Lately, he has used words such as 'tired' and 'recovery time' in his interviews/post-match presentations. Do you see him leaving one format to prolong another? In a way, the Indian T20I squad has moved on from him. Do you think he'll continue to play both ODIs and Tests?
I hope he continues to play ODIs and Tests. I'm sure he has got a plan in place. It's very reasonable and normal for him to be tired, to feel like it's time for him to unfold that final chapter in a way. I don't exactly know how long he will play for but I would like it to be for as long as possible. He's been incredible to watch and we all want to see a little bit more of him. The South Africa series is important to him, and he might play a few, rest and sit out a few and find a way to manage himself leading up to the end of his career.
At a very early stage, Virat found a way to master his own game, understand what works for him and he has taken that into the highest-pressure moments. It's a privilege to have shared the dressing room with him, partnerships with him and some incredible moments with him. He's a fantastic player and long may that continue. Hopefully, that career has got a few more years in it.
As someone who revolutionised batting in his time, what do you think is the next step in terms of batting innovation?
Not exactly a next step in batting innovation, but more to do with really mastering the aggressive and the conservative nature of batting. Understanding that it's not all about T20 cricket and bombing the bowling attack to all parts. Just understanding the flow of the game and who can master that – be explosive and then pull back. If you can excel at that, you can be a very fine player in future. There is always a generation that comes through and finds a new way to innovate. Maybe it's that right and left hand combination, like Maxwell does. Maybe players can work on that and play good cricket shots both right and left handed. I don't know. We'll have to wait and see.
From today's era, who is the one player whose batting resembles yours the most?
The guy that resembles my batting the most is Dewald Brevis. We worked together, we went to the same school and I think he has had a look at my technique and sort of used that in his career, similar to how I used Jacques Kallis' technique.
SA20 Season 2 gets underway from January 10 - February 10, 2024.
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