AB de Villiers has opened up on his friendship with Virat Kohli, who he says is “much deeper than just a cricket player”. Speaking to Pommie Mbangwa, the former Zimbabwe fast bowler who’s now a commentator, de Villiers said his conversations with Kohli – a long-time team-mate at Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL – reach far beyond cricket.
“Obviously when it comes to the IPL in India, it’s been more than friendship,” de Villiers said, when asked who his best friends in cricket are. “Virat obviously – not only during the IPL, we chat throughout the year, which means it’s different than just the IPL or cricketing friendship.
“From a South Africa point of view, I’ve stayed in touch with Morne Morkel, Faf [du Plessis] and Dale [Steyn]. Dale and I have come a long way together as well, I mean we’ve known each other since we were school kids and in primary school. JP [Duminy] as well. There’s no real best friend when it comes to cricket, you just hang out a bit more with one or two.”
De Villiers revealed that he has deep conversations not just with Kohli but with his wife, the Bollywood star Anushka Sharma, as well.
“He’s much deeper than just a cricket player […] I think most people realise after a while that there’s more to life than just cricket,” de Villiers said. “I think we all fall into that bubble initially. But Virat’s always been a thinker, he experiments [with] a lot of things, he loves trying new things out – gym wise, what he puts in his mouth. He thinks a lot about life after life – what’s to come, the different religions, we talk about everything.
“We go pretty deep and his missus as well, Anushka, we have very deep conversations, which is fantastic. We talk about children and family. We’re waiting for that first little Kohli to come. It’s a good friendship and we always find a way to talk about cricket as well, but 90% of the time we talk about other stuff. It’s refreshing and in the middle of a very intense IPL tournament.”
Asked who the better batsman is between Kohli and Steven Smith, de Villiers sidestepped the question smartly, and compared the two to a pair of tennis legends.
“It’s a difficult one, but Virat is definitely the more natural ball-striker, there’s no doubt about that,” de Villiers said. “In tennis terms, I’d say he’s more like a [Roger] Federer whereas Smith is like a [Rafael] Nadal. Smith is mentally very strong and figures out a way of scoring runs – he doesn’t look natural, but he ends up writing records and doing amazing things at the crease. I think mentally, Smith is one of the best I have ever seen. Virat has also scored runs all over the world and won games under pressure.”
And asked to compare Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar, his predecessor as India’s superstar best batsman, de Villiers gave the younger man the edge in one department – chasing targets.
“Sachin is a role model for both of us – the way he stood out in his era, the things he achieved and with the grace he did all that is a great example for everyone,” de Villiers said. “And I think Virat will also say that he set the standards for us to follow.
“But personally, in a chase, I’d say Virat is the best I’ve seen in my life. Sachin was amazing in all formats and all situations, but Virat comes out on top while chasing.”