“All I know most surely about morality and obligation I owe to football”,
AB the autobiography
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AB de Villiers, Macmillan, London, 2016. ISBN 978-1-5098-2257-7The book makes no secret of AB de Villiers’ Christian faith. In the first chapter, he states: “I strongly believe this book is not my story. It is the story of what God has planned and realized through me”. Elsewhere he refers to the need to be reminded that his achievements are “never my glory. It’s all His Glory” and “His talent and His skill effectively being manifested through me”.
Later he writes that “feeling close to and mindful of God enables me to function as a human being. I started to subscribe to a monthly booklet called Every day with Jesus, and got into the habit of reading the entry every single morning.”
My only criticism is that I would have loved more on how his faith impacts his life in practice and how he deals with a run of low scores and defeats as a manifestation of God’s talent in him. He shares one experience of crying uncontrollably when things were going badly and then realizing that he needed to step out of his disappointment for the good of the team.
AB was a good tennis player and writes that he learned lessons in tennis which ultimately helped his cricket… “I eventually learned to control my nerves, to conceal my utter devastation when I lost and, ultimately, to take responsibility for my performance.” The strength of the language gives a real insight into the psyche of the driven professional sportsman. At the same time he recalls advice given by a elderly coach that AB’s talent required that he train every day - before adding that “he must never stop enjoying the game. There should always be time for an ice cream”. He says that he tried to remain mindful of that advice even in professional sport.
The weakness of the book for some readers is the interminable detail of match after match. The strength is the analysis of team-mates and opponents, the insights into the pressures of elite sport and how it actually works.
Inevitably the book is very South African. Few outside the country could agree with his generous assessment of Hansie Cronje: “Hansie erred in communicating with betting syndicates and his mistakes were well publicized but these should not obscure his immense contribution to South African cricket”.
A very readable book by one of the all time greats of cricket.