While cricket may not be the world’s most played sport—for those confused, it’s football—it’s certainly treated as religion in countries it’s played in. Moreover, cricketers are revered like movie stars and, with the sport turning into a festival with the coming of Twenty20 cricket—especially the Indian Premier League (IPL)—cricketers, irrespective of their nationality, have become demigods.
If the older generation idolised legends such as Don Bradman, Sunil Gavaskar, Dennis Lillee and Curtly Ambrose, there is no dearth of icons for the new generation as well. One of them is South African cricketer AB de Villiers, who is fondly called AB or ABD by fans.
Though AB might not have as many records to his name as, say, Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara, he is still considered one of the greatest to play the gentleman’s game. In fact, there are quite a few ‘myths’ surrounding his sporting prowess and mental acuity, making him out to be a superhuman. The best chapter in his tell-all autobiography is one where he dispels these myths in a ‘true or false’ fashion. “Decent at golf, useful at rugby and tennis when I was young, and enjoying cricket ever since. The errors will doubtlessly remain on the Internet and people will continue to believe that I was some kind of prodigy at all those different sports, but the truth will hopefully somehow endure,” he says.
Unlike other autobiographies or biographies that tend to portray sports personalities as people with rock-solid confidence and concentration, the book starts with AB describing his nervousness during a 2015 One-Day match against West Indies in Johannesburg. He ended up setting a record in that match, scoring a half-century in 16 balls and a century in 44.
AB also sheds light on his childhood as the youngest of three brothers growing up in Warmbaths in South Africa. He categorically goes through each year of his life, starting from when he was 10 years old until he was selected at the age of 22 years. In all, the autobiography presents a well-balanced tale of his conversations with other cricketers, practice session lessons and life on and off the field.
India also finds a place in AB’s memoir, with the batsman devoting a whole chapter to the nation, he says, he is inspired by. In an honest and open fashion, AB describes his time at the IPL, which, he believes, is a great contributor to the game and will only grow in the coming years.
Interestingly, while he does give instances of some of his matches and the emotions he went through, never once does he go over his tally of records. More importantly, he provides a glimpse into the on-field journeys of his mates from South Africa, as well as the T20 teams he has been part of.
While the book may not appeal to those looking for inspiration from this great batsman, it’s a good read for cricket enthusiasts or those looking to make a career in the game. For followers of the batsman who has scored over 40,000 runs and has not been dropped for a single Test match since he started playing, AB might not emerge as the superhuman the Internet portrays him to be, but rather as an honest and humble man. A gentleman playing the gentleman’s game.