Ashleigh Barty’s retirement in March, when she was number one in women’s tennis and just 25 years old, is “weird to explain,” South African cricket legend AB de Villiers told AFP in an interview before teaming up for a golf event. . Barty’s relatively short career stands in stark contrast to 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 out of the game altogether last year. . De Villiers first met avid cricket fan Barty when he played in Australia’s Big Bash League in 2019 and they will meet again when they team up at the inaugural Icons Series golf event in Jersey City from June 30 to July 1.
A Freddie Couples-led USA team will take on a team from around the world — captained by “The Big Easy” Ernie Els, one of de Villier’s sporting idols — with 14 sports stars in each lineup.
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 belong to Team USA.
Three-time Grand Slam winner Barty — who De Villiers says has become a friend — has already taken a break from tennis, instead playing cricket for the Brisbane Heat during the 2015-16 Women’s Big Bash.
But this time the exit seems final.
“It’s weird to explain,” de Villiers told AFP in a telephone interview.
“I think the best answer is that everyone has their own way of maneuvering through their career, some as long as possible.
“The whole world respects her decision. I would like to think that leaving can be a relief, but it is an unbelievable age to retire.”
De Villiers was one of those rare pigeons averaging over 50 in both Test and one-day international formats.
He says he hasn’t had a second thought since he pulled down the curtain on his stellar career, captaining South Africa in all three formats.
“I feel relieved to be here,” he said.
“I am very happy that I made the right decision, even if I miss the game and will be forever grateful to the sport.
“But just like with Ash, there’s a peace of mind where I am.
“I am very happy to look back on my career with beautiful memories.
“There are no regrets. Yes, I have made mistakes, but no regrets.”
De Villiers — also known as ‘Mr 360’ for his stroke play and ‘Superman’ for his amazingly agile fielding – says he was lucky not to have had too many bad runs with the bat during his career.
However, he sympathizes with his close friend Indian superstar Virat Kohli with whom he played at the Royal Challengers Bangalore of the Indian Premier League.
‘King Kohli’ had gone through a rough patch, including two consecutive golden ducks before turning 58 on Saturday. He also hasn’t scored a century in more than 100 games across all formats.
“As a batsman, you’re only one or two bad shots away from bad form,” said de Villiers.
“If it keeps coming at you, it’s hard to get rid of it.”
De Villiers says he has had no contact with Kohli, but says the battle is largely one of the mind.
“I can’t put a percentage on it, but it’s the mind and the power of the mind that is the main battle,” he said.
“You don’t become a bad player overnight. Virat would know and I know. I think it’s the way you think and set your mind.”
“You need a clear mind and fresh energy when you play, and then you can find a way out of a hole.”
While de Villiers made a lot of money off the T20 format, he is a staunch defender of the Test game. In 114 Tests between 2004 and 2018, he amassed 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 is nothing more beautiful than being there with your team for five days.
“It’s the ultimate challenge. I don’t know why anyone would say they don’t want that challenge in the most difficult formats.
“I’ll stop watching cricket if Test cricket is gone.”