AB The Autobiography reads like a homage to the childhood and upbringing of a person who has risen to become a living, playing legend. In some places, particularly those where the author provides point-of-view, blow-by-blow accounts of matches or incidents, the book reads like an ode.
It is in one of these accounts – where AB de Villiers describes the 2015 World Cup journey – that a sense of understanding of what transpired at the World Cup creeps in.
“Bluntly and as short as possible, no.” This was De Villiers’ response after being asked if his “emotional” state of mind – the evening before the semifinal against New Zealand – contributed to the Proteas being knocked out of the tournament.
In the chapter titled The Dream, he reveals how, on the night before the semifinal, he was informed of the decision to include Vernon Philander ahead of Kyle Abbot, and he spent the entire evening fretting over the selection issue.
“I needed to get my head around everything, but I was emotional and, so far as I could see, the entire situation seemed so unnecessary and unfair on everybody.”
This is the first time somebody within the playing squad has revealed, to this extent, what transpired that evening. The decision to include Philander in the semifinal brought the number of players of colour in the starting 11 to four, which is Cricket SA’s selection guideline on transformation.
Prior to the semifinal, South Africa had fielded four teams of five players of colour and four teams of three players of colour. But De Villiers says that “none of us within the squad was counting. I sincerely believe we were genuine new South Africans, blind to race and colour.”
When asked to comment, De Villiers says that this is the message he wants to get across to everyone.
“I want to inspire youngsters in South Africa and the next generation of leaders to think like that. If there is any area of South Africa that doesn’t think like that, I want them to brainwash themselves and think like that.”
Legacy, inspiration, motivation, the future – these are themes that De Villiers continues to touch on in his book. With every past anecdote or reflection, there is a space where his future vision is set out.
In the last anecdote of the book, De Villiers looks at his wife Danielle and baby boy AB Jnr, while reflecting on how grateful he is. His mind immediately turns to the future as he remembers asking Virat Kohli how long he will play cricket for.
The Indian captain answers: “I’m going to play forever.” To which De Villiers replies, with a smile: “If only that were possible.”
De Villiers hopes to lead South Africa to World Cup glory and to live in the annals of history.
“I’d love to [write a book] one day about how we actually got to winning that World Cup,” De Villiers says.
In the beginning, he discusses at length his relationship with God and how when God talks, he listens. The batsman narrates two incidents that left him in tears, humbled and grateful. When he talks about the value of God and family, he declares that it’s an “emotional” topic that brings him to “tears”.
And this is, in essence, what the book is about – the emotions and feelings behind all the incidents that have shaped him: a superstar in India, a hero in South Africa and a phenom in cricket.
“I’ve worn my heart on my sleeve. With everything, I like to be open and honest. It’s all out there, my feelings, my emotions, my weaknesses as a human being, my strengths.”
- AB The Autobiography is published by Pan Macmillan and is available for R350