Ash Barty playing Icon Series golf event: AB de Villiers reacts to strange retirement, code hopping

Australian superstar Ash Barty’s retirement and subsequent code change took everyone by surprise, including one of his new teammates.

Ash Barty’s retirement in March, when she was number one in women’s tennis and just 25, is “strange to explain,” South African cricket legend AB de Villiers said in an interview before joining for a golf event.

Barty’s relatively short career stands in contrast to that of the 38-year-old de Villiers, who, after more than a decade at the top, only retired from all formats of international cricket in 2018 and from the game altogether last year.

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De Villiers first met Barty, an avid cricket fan, when he was playing in Australia’s Big Bash League in 2019 and they will meet again when they team up at the inaugural Icon Series golf event in Jersey City on 30 from June to July 1.

A US team captained by Freddie Couples will compete against a team from the rest of the world, captained by “The Big Easy” Ernie Els, one of De Villiers’ sports idols, with 14 sports stars in each lineup.

While Barty and golfing enthusiast de Villiers are on the Rest of the World Team, swimming legend Michael Phelps is among those on Team USA.

The three-time Grand Slam winner Barty, whom de Villiers describes as a friend, has already taken a break from tennis and played cricket for the Brisbane Heat during the 2015-16 Women’s Big Bash.

But this time, the exit seems to be definitive.

“It’s weird to explain,” de Villiers told AFP in a telephone interview. “I think the best answer is that each person has their own way of maneuvering throughout their career, some as long as possible.

“The whole world respects his decision. I’d like to think stepping back might be a relief, but it’s an amazing age to retire.”

De Villiers was one of those rare birds who averaged over 50 in both Test and international one-day formats.

He says he has had no doubts since the curtain fell on his stellar career that saw him captain South Africa in all three formats.

“I feel relief sitting here,” he said.

“I feel very happy that I made the right decision even if I miss the game and I will be eternally grateful to the sport.

“But similar to Ash, there is a calm where I am.

“I am very happy to look back on my career with fond memories.

“There are no regrets. Yes, I made mistakes but I don’t regret it.”

De Villiers, known as “Mr 360” for his striking game and “Superman” for his astonishingly agile fielding, says he was lucky not to have had too many bad streaks with the bat during his career.

However, he sympathizes with his close friend, Indian superstar Virat Kohli, with whom he played in the Royal Challengers Bangalore franchise of the Indian Premier League.

“King Kohli” had been going through a rough patch that included two consecutive golden ducks before hitting 58 on Saturday. He also hasn’t managed to score a century in over 100 games in all formats.

“As a hitter, you’re only one or two bad hits away from bad form,” de Villiers said. “If he keeps coming at you, it’s hard to recover.”

De Villiers says he hasn’t been in contact with Kohli, but says fighting largely becomes a mindset.

“I can’t put a percentage on it, but it’s the mind and the power of the mind that’s the main battle,” he said.

“You don’t become a bad player overnight. Virat would know and I know. I think it’s the way you think and set your mind.

“You need a clear mind and fresh energy every time you play and then you can find a way out of a hole.”

While de Villiers made a lot of money playing the T20 format, he is a staunch supporter of the Test game. In 114 tests between 2004 and 2018, he racked up 8,765 runs for South Africa, averaging just over 50.

“Test cricket is my number one format,” he said.

“I think most players feel that way. There is nothing more rewarding than being there for five days with your team.

“It is the last challenge. I don’t know why anyone would say they don’t want that challenge in the harder format.

“I will stop watching cricket if test cricket ceased to exist.”

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