South Africa in England 2012 July 16, 2012

From breakdowns to brainwashing

ESPNcricinfo staff
28

In 2007, AB de Villiers was told by the then South Africa coach Mickey Arthur that he was in the last chance saloon. A poor run of form had left him with one last chance to save his place in the side and possibly his international career.

In the latest edition of Alison's Tea Break, de Villiers, now South Africa's one-day captain, Test vice-captain, and one of the most dangerous batsmen in the world, talks in detail about his batting ethos and describes how he came through what he calls his "breakdown" in 2006/7 when he was on the cusp of losing his place in the side.

He explains how he forced himself into a positive frame of mind - "brainwashing" himself, as he puts it - before hitting a century against the West Indies and following it up with an unbeaten double hundred against India in Ahmedabad.

Five years later he is enjoying a leadership role within the South Africa team; a role which, he believes, is partly responsible for the way he has developed an astonishing repertoire of batting strokes.

He talks Alison through his jaw-dropping assault on South Africa team mate Dale Steyn in the IPL earlier this year, and determines that while Test cricket is about playing the ball, T20 is about anticipating. The way de Villiers was able to read the game that night resulted in a blistering 47 off 17 balls, including 23 off one Steyn over, to turn the match for Bangalore Royal Challengers. Find out in this interview how he feels about having been No. 1 in the Test batting rankings, to what extent he believes talent is innate, and just how he achieves the right frame of mind to take on the world's best bowlers time and time again.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on July 18, 2012, 10:50 GMT

    The SA top 6 is among the best n world cricket. They all have good averages bar Duminy and Rudolph. Rudolph has just returned to test cricket and Duminy has been a bit part player in the Test side. Kallis, Smith, Amla, AB are all quality with good Test Averages, better than England's batting line up. England have a good bowling attack which I wont write off, at all. I think England have a better bowling attack than SA.

  • ashes61 on July 17, 2012, 19:45 GMT

    Not sure it's worth jeopardising his vital batting contribution by weighing him down with the onerous wkt keeping duties in the Tests. Surely SA have plenty of keepers of the right calibre just behind Boucher? If not, there must be something very wrong with domestic cricket in RSA. ENG could probably find half a dozen of the right standard if Prior had a serious injury.

  • imrankhan76uk on July 17, 2012, 12:50 GMT

    I say England are odds on to win the series because of home advantage and their recent history....but it should be a good contest in all departments... we might see some special acts from both sides...after all it is battle to be number one

  • imrankhan76uk on July 17, 2012, 12:48 GMT

    @Anil Oli.... sorry my friend your choices are heavily based / dependent on IPL... therefore your list doesn't make sense at international level

  • imrankhan76uk on July 17, 2012, 12:45 GMT

    @ jonesy2 .... I don't wanna hurt anyones feeling but M.Clark is one of the most rubbish cricketer I have ever seen in Aussie Team....I insist on Rubbish Cricketer.... even Taibu will produce better cricket and results with current Aussie team. no disgrace to Taibu by the way....

  • JimDavis on July 17, 2012, 11:10 GMT

    But the big question was missed out - why did his parents name him after Allan Border?

  • A_Vacant_Slip on July 17, 2012, 7:27 GMT

    @SCC08 - @Lmaotsetung is hardcore England fan. de Villiers is good - but let see how he get on against the best bowler unit in the world in perfect bowling condition in England Test match pressure situation.... Everyone is dribbling over South Africa batsmen - but England batsmen are at least as good.

  • Snick_To_Backward_Point on July 17, 2012, 6:58 GMT

    Forgot to mention also, keeping wicket for 5 days over 3 tests will be a massive examination for ABDV and doesn;t he get back problems from time to time? It'll be very interesting indeed....

  • hashabjp on July 17, 2012, 5:11 GMT

    No bastman in modern era is as dominating as AB ... he plays all situations and according to every situation. He is such great player who has converted his talent to play. Also Hashim amla is highly under rated. That man is second next to the best batter in the world along with Jacques kallis. Hope AB continues to flay attack. GO AB :)

  • on July 17, 2012, 4:16 GMT

    Hilarious comment from RandyOZ! For me, this test series will determine if Smith still deserves a spot in the team...

  • on July 18, 2012, 10:50 GMT

    The SA top 6 is among the best n world cricket. They all have good averages bar Duminy and Rudolph. Rudolph has just returned to test cricket and Duminy has been a bit part player in the Test side. Kallis, Smith, Amla, AB are all quality with good Test Averages, better than England's batting line up. England have a good bowling attack which I wont write off, at all. I think England have a better bowling attack than SA.

  • ashes61 on July 17, 2012, 19:45 GMT

    Not sure it's worth jeopardising his vital batting contribution by weighing him down with the onerous wkt keeping duties in the Tests. Surely SA have plenty of keepers of the right calibre just behind Boucher? If not, there must be something very wrong with domestic cricket in RSA. ENG could probably find half a dozen of the right standard if Prior had a serious injury.

  • imrankhan76uk on July 17, 2012, 12:50 GMT

    I say England are odds on to win the series because of home advantage and their recent history....but it should be a good contest in all departments... we might see some special acts from both sides...after all it is battle to be number one

  • imrankhan76uk on July 17, 2012, 12:48 GMT

    @Anil Oli.... sorry my friend your choices are heavily based / dependent on IPL... therefore your list doesn't make sense at international level

  • imrankhan76uk on July 17, 2012, 12:45 GMT

    @ jonesy2 .... I don't wanna hurt anyones feeling but M.Clark is one of the most rubbish cricketer I have ever seen in Aussie Team....I insist on Rubbish Cricketer.... even Taibu will produce better cricket and results with current Aussie team. no disgrace to Taibu by the way....

  • JimDavis on July 17, 2012, 11:10 GMT

    But the big question was missed out - why did his parents name him after Allan Border?

  • A_Vacant_Slip on July 17, 2012, 7:27 GMT

    @SCC08 - @Lmaotsetung is hardcore England fan. de Villiers is good - but let see how he get on against the best bowler unit in the world in perfect bowling condition in England Test match pressure situation.... Everyone is dribbling over South Africa batsmen - but England batsmen are at least as good.

  • Snick_To_Backward_Point on July 17, 2012, 6:58 GMT

    Forgot to mention also, keeping wicket for 5 days over 3 tests will be a massive examination for ABDV and doesn;t he get back problems from time to time? It'll be very interesting indeed....

  • hashabjp on July 17, 2012, 5:11 GMT

    No bastman in modern era is as dominating as AB ... he plays all situations and according to every situation. He is such great player who has converted his talent to play. Also Hashim amla is highly under rated. That man is second next to the best batter in the world along with Jacques kallis. Hope AB continues to flay attack. GO AB :)

  • on July 17, 2012, 4:16 GMT

    Hilarious comment from RandyOZ! For me, this test series will determine if Smith still deserves a spot in the team...

  • on July 16, 2012, 22:38 GMT

    One of the finest batsmen in the World today: Gayle, AB devilliers and MS Dhoni! Best allrounders: Andre Russell, Shakib Al Hasan, R.N. ten Doeschate, SRWatson and J. Kallis! One of the best bowlers today: S. Narine, DW Steyn, Saeed Ajmal and G.P. Swann! Hope i am not being too bias :)

  • Supa_SAFFA on July 16, 2012, 19:16 GMT

    @chilled_avenger: Part of the reason why Kallis has a better average than De Villiers since 2009 is because when the veteran was scoring his 1st and 2nd double hundreds, he had none other than De Villiers himself on the other end to shepherd him through. In fact, during Kallis' maiden double ton, De Villiers took the pressure off by slashing something like one hundred runs off sixty balls. England had better pray they don't find that kind of form.

  • on July 16, 2012, 18:50 GMT

    AB can be amazing. Should be interesting seeing him in action against England's finest

  • SCC08 on July 16, 2012, 17:26 GMT

    LMAOTSETUNG - suppose you are Indian?

  • jonesy2 on July 16, 2012, 16:01 GMT

    seriously? people commenting on here simply dont know or have never seen cricket. de villers is a great batsman and one of the best but he is not the best. best batsman in the world is michael clarke obviously but i would say AB is just behind him

  • on July 16, 2012, 13:49 GMT

    love u AB................

  • RandyOZ on July 16, 2012, 13:27 GMT

    Credit where credit is due. A big congrats to SA for fielding two sides for the upcoming test series.

  • Wexfordwonder on July 16, 2012, 13:06 GMT

    @ Lmaotsetung Honestly mate, he has been No1 in the test batting arena and currently lies at 3, not because he slipped, but because he was overtaken in the off season. It would be more apt to say, can he transfer his incredible talent in the test arena into other formats, well, he has.

  • on July 16, 2012, 12:44 GMT

    Wow...some indians can take a few lessons they way he spoke about being a team player. Only Indian player I can think who would be like AB is dravid who did whatever it took...

  • Snick_To_Backward_Point on July 16, 2012, 11:07 GMT

    Let's see how ABDV fares against arguably the best bowling attack in the World before we go all-gooey on him.

  • sandy_bangalore on July 16, 2012, 11:00 GMT

    The worlds best batsman today(Pietersen at his best comes closest). Technically sound and has a stunning range of strokes. He rocked this year for Bangalore as well, so lot of us want to see him do well.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 16, 2012, 10:50 GMT

    I can't wait to see if AB tries some 'imaginative' shots like he does in the IPL! The likes of Warner made empty promises about switch-hitting etc. and as usual came to naught... AB on the other hand is likely to try something expansive, even in tests!

  • StaalBurgher on July 16, 2012, 10:49 GMT

    Look I am an AB fan but hitting sixes in the IPL does not make you the "best batsmen of the modern era". Being consistently no.1 in the Test rankings does.

    If the last few home series' are anything to go by T20 has screwed up his mindset in Tests. Against both India and England he gets a hundred and then tries to be too aggressive and gets out. What a waste. I hope he can rein himself in for this English series.

  • on July 16, 2012, 10:46 GMT

    Lmaotsetung, "Another guy looking to transfer IPL form to the Test arena." Um...WHAT!!!

    Have you seen AB play in tests? He doesn't have to transfer any form any where, he has more than enough in all formats.

  • sunny_227 on July 16, 2012, 10:35 GMT

    Wonderfull AB is The Best Batsmen of modern Era

  • Samar_Singh on July 16, 2012, 10:30 GMT

    No doubt ABDV is simply the best batter in the world ...

  • chilled_avenger on July 16, 2012, 10:16 GMT

    In 51 ODIs since 2009,AB has an average of 70.21 and strike-rate of 101.89 including 10 centuries! In this period,he also has an average of 64.52 in 26 tests,which is 2nd only to Kallis in that period,that too by a small margin! Oh,and he is also an outstanding fielder and a more-than-capable wicketkeeper. Truly,de Villers is seriously amazing yet seriously underrated!

  • Lmaotsetung on July 16, 2012, 9:39 GMT

    Another guy looking to transfer IPL form to the Test arena. We'll see how he fares in the 3 match series. Saffers better pray it's a successful transition else you'll be looking for only Amla to carry the team.

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  • Lmaotsetung on July 16, 2012, 9:39 GMT

    Another guy looking to transfer IPL form to the Test arena. We'll see how he fares in the 3 match series. Saffers better pray it's a successful transition else you'll be looking for only Amla to carry the team.

  • chilled_avenger on July 16, 2012, 10:16 GMT

    In 51 ODIs since 2009,AB has an average of 70.21 and strike-rate of 101.89 including 10 centuries! In this period,he also has an average of 64.52 in 26 tests,which is 2nd only to Kallis in that period,that too by a small margin! Oh,and he is also an outstanding fielder and a more-than-capable wicketkeeper. Truly,de Villers is seriously amazing yet seriously underrated!

  • Samar_Singh on July 16, 2012, 10:30 GMT

    No doubt ABDV is simply the best batter in the world ...

  • sunny_227 on July 16, 2012, 10:35 GMT

    Wonderfull AB is The Best Batsmen of modern Era

  • on July 16, 2012, 10:46 GMT

    Lmaotsetung, "Another guy looking to transfer IPL form to the Test arena." Um...WHAT!!!

    Have you seen AB play in tests? He doesn't have to transfer any form any where, he has more than enough in all formats.

  • StaalBurgher on July 16, 2012, 10:49 GMT

    Look I am an AB fan but hitting sixes in the IPL does not make you the "best batsmen of the modern era". Being consistently no.1 in the Test rankings does.

    If the last few home series' are anything to go by T20 has screwed up his mindset in Tests. Against both India and England he gets a hundred and then tries to be too aggressive and gets out. What a waste. I hope he can rein himself in for this English series.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 16, 2012, 10:50 GMT

    I can't wait to see if AB tries some 'imaginative' shots like he does in the IPL! The likes of Warner made empty promises about switch-hitting etc. and as usual came to naught... AB on the other hand is likely to try something expansive, even in tests!

  • sandy_bangalore on July 16, 2012, 11:00 GMT

    The worlds best batsman today(Pietersen at his best comes closest). Technically sound and has a stunning range of strokes. He rocked this year for Bangalore as well, so lot of us want to see him do well.

  • Snick_To_Backward_Point on July 16, 2012, 11:07 GMT

    Let's see how ABDV fares against arguably the best bowling attack in the World before we go all-gooey on him.

  • on July 16, 2012, 12:44 GMT

    Wow...some indians can take a few lessons they way he spoke about being a team player. Only Indian player I can think who would be like AB is dravid who did whatever it took...