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Want to keep myself fresh and win tournaments for South Africa: AB de Villiers

CricketWant to keep myself fresh and win tournaments for South Africa: AB de Villiers
AB de Villiers, South Africa’s captain in the limited-overs format of the game, has squashed suggestions that he’s closing in on retiring from the longest format of the game. The star batsman hasn’t played a Test since featuring against England at the Centurion in January last year, but has played for the national team in the other formats of the game since then.

De Villiers suffered an elbow injury during the tri-nation series in West Indies and subsequently missed the home Test series against New Zealand, the tour of Australia and the home Tests against Sri Lanka – before making a comeback in the 50-over matches against Sri Lanka, early this year. He has since then pulled out of Tests against New Zealand and the forthcoming Test series against England and Bangladesh, making himself available only in the other formats of the game.ABD

The 33-year old batsman, whose focus now solely lies on winning the 2019 World Cup for South Africa, however insisted that it doesn’t mean the end of the road as far as his Test career is concerned. “I made some important decisions for my life and career in the last year or so in order for me to have the best chance of winning trophies and being part of a successful team,” de Villiers said in Hove on Thursday (May 18), on the eve of of South Africa’s first practice match, a 50-over encounter against Sussex.

“Physically I realised I’m the best I can be when I’m fresh and looking forward to cricket instead of the other way round and being tired when I’m playing. Spending time with the family has done me the world of good and it is about finding the balance of working hard to win with time away from the game.”

However, the South Africa one-day captain once again insisted that he wouldn’t change his mind as far as making himself available for the upcoming England Tests. “I haven’t retired, no. But I’m not going to change my decision. I’ll look indecisive,” he said.

De Villiers is with the South African team for the first leg of their England tour which consists of three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) against the hosts – as part of preparations for the upcoming Champions Trophy – due to begin on June 1. The hosts have lost just one ODI series at home (against Australia) since their embarrassing exit from the 2015 World Cup and the Protea skipper said he expects a tough fight in the three ODIs.

He was also impressed with the way England reinvented themselves in the 50-over format of the game and rated them as one of the favourites to clinch the eight-team event. “I remember thinking in 2015 they had hit rock bottom,” said de Villiers. “The way they came back from that earned a lot of respect around the world.”

South Africa last won an ICC tournament in 1998 and de Villiers is part of a squad that hasn’t won any silverware in major tournaments. Seeking to correct the anomaly, the star batsman said he’s desperate to end the drought and will go to any extent to correct South Africa’s poor record in global tournaments.

“I haven’t won one of these trophies in my career, so I’m pretty desperate to win one, and we’ll do anything we can to get out on top. We know these tournaments are very competitive – there are eight teams that want to win it and can win it but we do think we’ve got a very good squad here. I’ve got a good feeling about this one,” he said talking about the upcoming Champions Trophy.

De Villiers is coming on the back of a spell in the Indian Premier League (IPL) where he plays for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). Having watched England’s Ben Stokes from close quarters, the South African captain believes that the all-rounder has taken his game to the ‘next level’. Stokes, who played for the Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS), enjoyed a successful maiden season of the IPL – making 316 runs, taking 12 wickets and grabbing 5 catches. He was also voted as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) at the end of the league phase of the tournament.

“Stokes is a fantastic cricketer, with both bat and ball. He’s definitely got something special about him. A lot of guys lose their way in the IPL, and others find the next level in their game. Ben Stokes definitely lifted his game and I think it would have done him the world of good,” de Villiers opined.

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