Much to the delight of the Brisbane Heat, their latest coup signing AB de Villiers arrives for his maiden Big Bash League stint at the back of a successful T20 stint in South Africa's Mzansi Super League. De Villiers himself admitted that his stint in the tournament (325 runs at a strike rate of 152.58 for the Tshwane Spartans) saw him in some of the best form of his career.
"I felt in some of the best form of my career. Hopefully, we'll see more of that in this tournament. I know what's required of me to make a play for the team. There have been some standout performances from the Heat this season and I think the team is in a really good place," de Villiers said in Brisbane on Monday (January 13).
Heat will desperately need the form to carry forward as De Villiers essentially replaces England's swashbuckling opener Tom Banton, who returns after a brief but highly successful stint. Banton smashed three fifties in six outings, each coming in impressively quick time - 64 off 36, 56 off 19 and 55 off 32. De Villiers acknowledged the impact Banton has had on the team and hoped to emulate similar levels of devastation, but from the middle-order. De Villers is likely to slot in at No.4 for the Heat.
"Tom Banton did a fantastic job, hopefully, I'll do a similar job but in the middle order," de Villiers said, while adding that he was looking forward to the pressures of featuring in the tournament. De Villiers's BBL stint could be so much more critical as there have been reports of the veteran batsman coming out of retirement and featuring in this year's T20 World Cup, which is scheduled to be held in Australia in October-November.
"I always (feel pressure). Wherever I play around the world, either a club game or the World Cup semi-finals, I feel the same kind of pressure, the pressure I put on myself to perform at the best of my ability. This is no different, but I've done it so many times. It doesn't guarantee success but I know what to expect. The butterflies I'm getting in my stomach is a good sign," de Villiers said.
"All I can do is go out and enjoy myself and hopefully have an impact on the game with the batting. Then there's the fielding and all the off-field stuff as well. I've got a big role to play as an individual not just as a cricketer and I'm looking forward to the challenge," he added.
Should De Villiers slot in at No.4, there will be instances when he will get to bat with the team's captain - Chris Lynn - who is playing one-drop for his team this season. Though the two haven't played together before, they are acquaintances through the IPL where de Villiers represents RCB and Lynn previously turned out for KKR.
"It could be interesting, I don't know what to expect [about batting with Lynn]," de Villiers said. "We know each other from chatting at IPL but it's an interesting dynamic with two players at the crease, it either works or it doesn't. I've got a feeling that it's going to work and be very nice to watch. Hopefully, I'll do most of the watching at the non-striker's end," de Villiers said.
With four wins and as many losses from eight fixtures, Brisbane Heat sit at fifth spot in the points table. They next host third-placed Adelaide Strikers on Tuesday, where de Villiers can make his much-awaited BBL bow.