–‘Good seam bowlers coming through from Pakistan’
They call him Mr 360 for his ability to hit the cricket ball anywhere he wants and aims. He can cover any length of the ground, any height to catch a ball. These qualities have made him a “SUPERMAN”. The man is Abraham Benjamin de Villiers – famously known as AB.
Off the field, he is a very humble and down to earth man. He called it a day when he thought that his time was up and is now playing Twenty20 leagues around the world.
He has left international cricket poorer, like many other greats. But having left international cricket has given AB a chance to influence some young players with participation in various leagues around the world. That is his way of returning to the game what the game gave to him.
For the HBL PSL, AB is the biggest catch. He has graced, spiced and lifted the HBL PSL. His mere appearance – after thorough and wholehearted efforts – is a big lesson for all those who will rub shoulders with him.
AB agreed to share his views with www.psl-t20.com on HBL PSL, the young talent in the league, his sentiments on helping the return of international cricket to Pakistan, about who are favourites to win the World Cup 2019 and on how much he has been satisfied with his career.
Here is how he batted against our medium-fast questions:
How do you feel about being part of the HBL PSL and what is the one factor that makes you play in the league.
AB: I am very happy to be a part of the league. It is really exciting and the quality of cricket is very good. It is quite nice to be playing cricket, enjoying it and being part of a very nice team. They are good human beings and it is exciting. We are really working hard in the league.
What is special about your vibrant franchise Lahore Qalandars?
AB: The Lahore guys are very good people. The owner (Fawad Rana), Sameen Rana and right through the coaching staff and the players are good friends, so we get along well and we have fantastic energy and as I said I just love playing for them. I hope we get some wins in the league.
We know you are going to Lahore for the HBL PSL, so what is your message to the fans in Lahore?
AB: I just hope we play some good cricket over there and win some games. Ultimately, the fans want us to play good cricket and win games. Hopefully, we get to entertain them as well. So, my message to them would be to come out in big numbers and support us and we will hopefully return that by winning some games.
Which was the toughest match against Pakistan that you still remember?
AB: think we played an ODI game in Multan (2007) and we lost that. That was a tough match, where I dropped a catch at point and that sort of cost us some runs and eventually Pakistan won that game.
What excites you most about the Pakistan cricket team?
AB: The one thing I always liked about the Pakistan cricket team is that they are always very competitive. They are quite similar to South Africa in a way that they are very resilient as a cricket team. They never give up and they always fight. There are some tough guys in their team and you are always up for a big battle against them.
Pakistan are regarded as an unpredictable team, how can they change that?
AB: I guess all teams are unpredictable, in a way. You can’t win all the time. You win some and you lose some. At times you win more than you lose. I think Pakistan have performed well of late. I think they competed well in South Africa (recently). We, in the past, may be were good and they didn’t compete with us well. They are a good team with good bowlers and some good batters who seem to be getting good runs. All in all, they are a good team.
Who is your all-time favourite Pakistan player?
AB: That’s a tough question. I always enjoyed the seam attack of Pakistan. They are always some good seam bowlers coming through from Pakistan, especially left-armers. They, for some reasons, have a lot of left-armers and one gets better than the other one. It is probably because of Wasim Akram, the left-armers idolised him growing up and that’s why so many came through. I love watching left-arm seam bowlers and there are quite a few in this PSL. There is that youngster Shaheen Afridi who is playing with me in my team and I am very impressed with him.
You play league cricket around the world, where do you place the HBL PSL?
AB: It is right up there with some of the best cricket that I have played. May be, it’s just below the IPL (Indian Premier League) when it comes to quality of cricket. It’s second to none, may be third to none. I think it is a very well-organised tournament as well and really have competitive matches of cricket, which is great.
A lot of players reckon that the bowling in HBL PSL is the most challenging among all the leagues, do you agree?
AB: There is some good bowling, depends on where you play. The wickets at Sharjah were quite flat and more batter-friendly. In Dubai, I always feel that the bowlers are in the game as there is little bit of movement with the newish ball. But, yeah, I think the bowling attacks are really competitive. Then some international bowlers are around as well that top-up the bowling even more.
You played 114 Tests, 228 ODIs and 78 T20Is before retiring last year. Are you satisfied with what you achieved in your career?
AB: I had a fantastic time. I have never been a follower of stats at all, didn’t know the numbers that you just mentioned. I just loved playing the game, winning game of cricket and loved having an impact on the game and turning things around for the team I played for when they were in trouble. Those are the things I want to remember, so I had a very enjoyable career.
When you joined HBL PSL, you expressed some touchy sentiments that won the hearts of 22 million people in Pakistan. What made you express those comments?
AB: I just loved treading back in those days. I feel they (Pakistan) have a very rich history in cricket. They are a very proud nation of cricket and have a rich tradition. I feel they deserved to have cricket in their home country. I really feel they do. If I could contribute, in any way, in helping that happen, even if it is 0.01 percent then I am very happy to do so. I am looking forward to returning there and, hopefully, international cricket and all sorts of cricket returns there.
Do you miss silverware in your career, like a World Cup or a Champions Trophy or a World Twenty20 trophy?
AB: Not at all, no. There was a time in my career where it was really important for me to win tournaments like that. I was a little bit of delusional in the way I planned that. I was straining too much into winning those trophies. Eventually, I realized, that’s not the way to play cricket and that sort of just felt like a mountain came off my shoulders. That’s when I made the decision. Then, I realised that I am over playing and that I am pretty much done.
Who do you think are the favourites to win the World Cup?
AB: Yes, it’s difficult to say who will win. You can’t look past India and Pakistan in the ODIs. Pakistan won the Champions Trophy, England are the hosts and you cannot discount Australia. South Africa would like to think they can win, so these are the five I have named who are the real big favourites. The West Indies are playing good cricket, so it’s difficult to single out a team or two. On my experience and having done it before, I think India and Pakistan have probably the best chance.
In any corner of you mind, if there are calls, can you rethink and play the World Cup?
AB: No, not at all. I am done. I have moved past that stage as I mentioned. I am very happy where I am at the moment. I am enjoying playing league cricket. I am enjoying having an influence on some young players around the world and spending some time with other cricketers and, yeah having some real good time, enjoying my batting.
If you are given another chance to live a life, would you want to be AB again or someone else?
AB: Haha, I am just happy to be myself. There is nothing special about me. I am just a normal human being, like other human beings. I love living, love spending time with my family around me. Small things of happiness matter to me the most.