AB de Villiers' decision to quit international cricket has made him sharper, the batsman said after putting in a Man-of-the-Match performance during Royal Challengers Bangalore's first win of the season. De Villiers made an unbeaten 59 against Kings XI Punjab, his third fifty in seven games this season. Although that is a decent ratio, de Villiers has failed to get past 20 in four games, a return that has put strain on a Royal Challengers batting order that still depends majorly on his and Virat Kohli's performances.
De Villiers admitted that he had got himself out a couple of times without converting, but said that hadn't bogged him down.
"I've got too much respect for the game to be upset about that," de Villiers said at the post-match presentation in Mohali. "Obviously I want to be there at the end every time, winning games for the team. I've hit the ball well, I've got in many times, and I just haven't gotten far on a few occasions. But as I said, I've got too much respect for the game of cricket to get ahead of myself and get too hard on myself. You're always just one knock away of from being in that confidence zone and hopefully I'll maintain this kind of form throughout the tournament now."
Since his retirement in May 2018, de Villiers has played in four T20 tournaments - the Mzansi Super League, the Bangladesh Premier League, the Pakistan Super League, and the IPL. These appearances add up to 28 innings, eight of which have featured single-digit scores. Before this IPL season, he had made only four 50-plus scores during this period.
De Villiers suggested that these up-and-down performances were not a consequence of his reduced playing time at the top level and that, if anything, the break has energised him.
"That's [being sharp's] exactly the reason why I decided not to play international cricket, it's to be as sharp as I can in other forms of the game around the world. I can't keep playing 10-11 months a year and keep being sharp after 15 years of international cricket. This kind of tournament, I'm playing every now and then, every 2-3 months. [It] really keeps me energetic. I get to work with university guys back home. With some of the local guys and local youngsters, which really gives me the energy and really motivates me to be better for some of the youngsters back home and be an example for them," he said.
International cricket or not, de Villiers was gushing in his approval of Royal Challengers signing his former team-mate Dale Steyn. With the near-impossible task of keeping a perfect win record from here on to stay in contention for the playoffs, de Villiers said Steyn's presence would boost the team.
"I think it was a fantastic move to get Dale involved," he said. "We all know what he's capable of. One thing is for sure, you'll get 200 percent from him. He'll give his absolute best every single time he bowls for the team and it's just going to be great to have a guy of that caliber and another great human being in our team.
"Yes, we know what we have to do now - we have to win a lot of games of cricket, but the next step is Mumbai, at the Wankhede staium. We love playing cricket there. We'll have to do our basics and bowl it up like we did today and hopefully more success is around the corner."