Ten thousand Test runs mean absolute 'zero' to me: De Villiers

Ten thousand Test runs mean absolute 'zero' to me: De Villiers

AB de Villiers maybe requiring less than 2000 runs to join the elite 10,000-club in Tests but the big mark means no more than an “absolute zero” for the South African batting phenomenon.

“I mean no disrespect to anyone who has ever achieved that but it means absolutely zero to me to achieve 10,000 runs. I don’t care about that at all,” said the right-hander who has taken a sabbatical from the longer format to keep himself fit and fresh for the 2019 World Cup, winning which is on top of his priority list.

“It’s very simple,” began de Villiers about his decision to take a break from Tests this year.

“It’s been coming for a few years now, where I’ve felt that I had quite a few reasons where I need to manage my cricket a bit. Firstly, my goal is the 2019 World Cup. We haven’t won a trophy like that in an ICC event before. So my focus has changed over the years, and seeing that we haven’t won one yet and looking at my age – I’m 33 now and probably not going to play for another 10 years – so my chances of winning a World Cup are becoming less and less. And there are a few things that stand in my way to get to that World Cup – it’s physical fitness, mental freshness, time with the family, time at home, things like that.

“For me to stay on the park and stay healthy until 2019 and so forth, I decided that what’s hardest on my body is Test cricket. It’s five days of cricket and three days of prep for every Test match, so that’s eight-nine days for one game of Test cricket. In T20s and ODIs you can play a lot more games and it’s not as hard on your body because you get rest between every single match that you play. Test cricket over the last few years has physically challenged me a bit, and that’s probably the main reason. For me to get to the 2019 World Cup, I felt that I just needed to get away from that format a little bit,” he explained.

De Villiers remained unavailable for almost six months as he battled an elbow injury. During this time he missed three Test series and then gave up his Test captaincy. His return to action after the long lay-off was termed “rebirth” by the South African team coach Russell Domingo while de Villiers said Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal was his inspiration.

“It’s something I haven’t dealt with a lot in my career, I haven’t had a lot of injuries,” de Villiers pointed out. “But every single time I’ve had an injury I’ve come back stronger. Throughout my 20s, 30s, doesn’t matter where – I’ve always felt it’s an opportunity to get back and to prove that you’ve worked really hard at your game.

“I haven’t played a lot (this year), but if you look at my form coming back against New Zealand (ODI series), I still played alright. It’s not easy, but it’s a great challenge to get away from the game and then to work hard and work your way back into it. I’ve found inspiration through a lot of athletes who have done that in the past. I think of (Rafael) Nadal, the tennis player. The way he’s come back has inspired me a lot. He’d been out for quite a long time as well. But that’s part of the game, you come and you go. I’m still motivated to play for as long as possible, and as long as that motivation is there mentally, nothing is going to stop me.”
De Villiers, however, reiterated that Test cricket was his first love and that it was here to stay.

“The way T20 has hit the ground, it was always going to be a challenge for Test cricket to keep the people involved and interested,” he thought. “But the ICC have got it right in the last few years, not neglecting Test cricket. There's been some unbelievable Test cricket played over the last 5-7 years. Some games I couldn't believe what I was witnessing. I've no doubt in my mind that the format is going nowhere. It's definitely here to stay, forever hopefully. I love watching Test cricket. As a player, I know it's the real challenge and the real test for a player. If you can survive in Test cricket, then you know you can play the game. I believe the ICC have got it right over the last few years to make sure that Test cricket survives,” he elaborated.

With the ICC striving hard to keep the primacy of Test cricket and T20 cricket growing in popularity, could the ODI format lose its importance somwhere down the line?
“Hopefully not, because I still want to win a World Cup,” said de Villiers only in jest. “Hopefully it doesn't go away. (Once we win the World Cup) then it can go. No, I'm kidding (laughs). I think the three formats that we have are very very unique. Every single format is completely different. In T20 you see all the skills, the adrenaline rush and the match-winners coming out of nowhere. In ODIs it's almost a little bit of a taste of both the formats, where the bowler's got more time to work a batsman out, and a batsman has more time to get himself in and then express himself. It's a beautiful format. I wouldn't like to see it go anywhere. And obviously Test cricket. It's a test of endurance and mental skill. All three formats are so unique, and I really think there's room for all three formats to survive in the future.”

One of the most celebrated foreign cricketers in India, de Villiers found it difficult explain his huge popularity in the country. “It takes my breath away completely - what's happened over here in India. I enjoy coming here from the first time I arrived here when I was 19-years old at the Commonwealth championships. It is a different culture, different experience, and I love playing in front of these fans. There is so much joy and passion for the game of cricket, so it was great coming here for the Test series (in 2015). It was my 100th Test (in Bengaluru) as well. I could not have asked for a better reception and better place to play my 100th Test. I always hold this place close to my heart. It will be great to come back here for another 10 years for the IPL - that is a little bit out of the question but hopefully as long as possible.”
The Protean said it was crazy to hear the chants of “ABD” everywhere he went. “I know. It's crazy. I don't know. I scored a hundred in a one-day game in Kanpur once, and I couldn't hear my celebrations. That was how the crowd was - that was crazy. It is a huge privilege and a honour to  see that happening and come back to India every time and knowing I have got a lot of fans. Hopefully I keep entertaining them and give them back as much as possible.”

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