South African cricket superstar AB de Villiers said he is “incredibly humbled” by the huge response his autobiography has been getting in India even before its launch next week.
Asked about his popularity among Indian cricket fans during the launch event of AB – The Autobiography in Johannesburg, de Villiers said he had never expected the kind of response he gets in India every time he plays there.
“It was probably the most humbling experience of my life walking out there in the final ODI against India at Wankhede Stadium (in 2015),” de Villiers said.
“I walked out there to bat and the entire crowd was cheering and chanting ‘AB! AB!’ so loud that I could not even hear myself talk.
“It was happening in the whole series, but then it hit me really hard that I was very far away from home and the people were supporting me like I was their own, yet I was playing against their own,” he added.
The managing director of publishers Pan McMillan, Terry Morris, said: “We always knew that AB’s autobiography and the reception to it in South Africa would be overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic, but we weren’t prepared for the response from the subcontinent.
“No sooner had AB tweeted almost a year ago about the cover shoot and the Pan McMillan South Africa Twitter handle was trending in India.”
“The book rose to Number 35 on the Amazon India charts last week based on pre-publication orders ahead of its launch in the country next week,” Morris added.
Confirming de Villiers’ popularity in India, former Proteas cricketer and Mumbai Indians consultant Jonty Rhodes wrote in the foreword of the book: “I had heard an Indian crowd chant before, but not like this. It was freaky.”
In a chapter titled Inspired by India, de Villiers wrote, “This great country has provided me with so many opportunities and has become so important in my career.”
Commenting on his participation in the Indian Premier League (IPL), de Villiers explained how the tournament has changed the game forever, as players who were used to being rivals on the international stage became friends and teammates.
But he was “embarrassed” about the price Vijay Mallya paid for him to play in the Royal Bangalore Challengers franchise in January 2011.
“A few well-timed performances… may have increased my value, but whatever the reason, I was surprised and, frankly, a little embarrassed when the list of annual player salaries was published after the auction and $1.1 million appeared beside my name,” de Villiers wrote.
“The IPL will surely continue to grow and develop, leading the evolution of the game in many respects, and I hope to participate for a few more years…not least because, taking into account the size of the crowds, the noise and the atmosphere, the most inspiring place to play cricket is India,” he said in the concluding chapter of his book.
AB – The Autobiography will also be launched in Australia and England later this month.