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"It has been an incredible journey, but I have decided to retire from all cricket," de Villiers announced on Twitter. "Ever since the back yard matches with my older brothers, I have played the game with pure enjoyment and unbridled enthusiasm. Now, at the age of 37, that flame no longer burns so brightly."
de Villiers last played for Royal Challengers in the 2021 IPL, where he scored 313 runs in 15 matches. While he continued to play in T20 leagues around the world - at the BBL, the PSL, the Vitality Blast, the BPL and the MSL back home - following his international retirement, he played the most in the IPL. Since beginning his association with the franchise in 2011, de Villiers played 157 matches for them and scored 4522 runs at a strike rate of 158.33. He is also the franchise's second-highest run-scorer of all time, behind Virat Kohli.
"I have had a long and fruitful time playing for RCB," he said in a statement. "Eleven years have just whizzed by and leaving the boys is extremely bittersweet. Of course, arriving at this decision took a lot of time, but after a lot of contemplation, I've decided to hang up my boots and spend quality time with my family.
"I would like to thank the RCB management, my friend Virat Kohli, teammates, coaches, support staff, fans, and the entire RCB family for showing faith and supporting me all through these years. It has been a memorable journey with RCB. Have so many memories on the personal front to cherish for the lifetime. RCB will always be very close to me and my family and will continue to support this amazing team. I am a RCBian forever."
The last three-and-a-half years of de Villiers' career was punctuated with questions over whether he would return for South Africa's white-ball teams, specifically for World Cups. At the 2019 World Cup, de Villiers contacted then white-ball captain Faf du Plessis shortly before South Africa were due to announce their squad, but the selectors turned down his request for a recall.
At the recently-completed Social Justice and Nation-Building Hearings, former convenor of selectors Linda Zondi confirmed that the administrators thought recalling de Villiers would be unfair to players who were already in the system.
Though lauded as South Africa's most creative batter, de Villiers also has the shadow of revelations hanging over him. In testimony from former selector Hussein Manack at the SJN hearings, de Villiers was accused of pressuring Manack not to pick Khaya Zondo for an ODI in India, preferring Dean Elgar instead. De Villiers never denied the allegation but said any inputs he made were always in the "best interests" of the team. He has submitted a responding affidavit to the SJN but it has not been made public.
de Villiers was also in talks with current head coach Mark Boucher about returning for the T20 World Cup, initially scheduled for 2020, but in May, it was made clear his international retirement would remain final.
Speculation about de Villiers' international future began in late 2015, after South Africa lost their first series on the road in nine years, in India. They returned home to play against England and de Villiers was asked to keep wicket in the opening Test, in addition to his role in the middle order. In that match, the first reports that de Villiers was considering early retirement began when Afrikaans newspaper Rapport suggested he was unhappy with the system. de Villiers played down the talk but said he was considering maybe "not to play all kinds of cricket".
He was then named stand-in captain after Hashim Amla stepped down from the role after the second Test. He was confirmed in the role in February 2016, but an elbow injury prevented him from taking up the position. He ruled himself out of Tests for most of 2017 and returned in December for a ten-Test summer, in which South Africa beat India Australia at home. He did not play international cricket again.