The son of Dr Abraham P de Villiers, he attended Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool (Afrikaans High School for Boys, also known as Affies), a public school located in Pretoria. De Villiers is a right-handed batsman, who, in a very short space of time, has accumulated many runs in Tests including 16 centuries and 32 fifties. He still holds the record for most Test innings without registering a duck (78), before being dismissed for nought against Bangladesh in November 2008. He also holds the second-highest individual score by a South African batsman in an innings, with 278*. Until 2012, he was an occasional wicket-keeper for South Africa, although since the retirement of regular Test keeper Mark Boucher and under his own ODI captaincy he has started to regularly keep wicket for the national side in Tests, ODIs and T20s.
AB de Villiers scored the seventh fastest century in ODI cricket, in 58 balls, when he slammed an unbeaten 102 off just 59 balls against India in Ahmedabad in February 2010. He reached the top of the Test batting rankings in March 2012. In December 2013, de Villiers became the ninth batsman in history to simultaneously hold the top position in the ICC batting rankings in both tests and ODIs.
De Villiers became the second youngest and second fastest South African to reach 1000 test runs after Graeme Pollock and in his test career so far has batted, bowled and kept wicket as well. He is a talented sportsman and has excelled in golf (playing off scratch despite playing infrequently), rugby, cricket and tennis. However, he chose to pursue a career in cricket and, after a spell in the South Africa U19 team, he made his debut for the Titans in 2003/4. He also played for Carrickfergus Cricket Club in Northern Ireland as their overseas player in 2004.
He made his test debut as a 20-year-old on 16 December 2004 against England at Port Elizabeth. He made an impression opening the batting, but was dropped down the order for the second test and also handed the wicket-keeping gloves. In this match, he made a match saving half century from number seven. However, he found himself at the top of the order again for the final test of the series and has played the majority of his tests there.
Despite a good tour of the Caribbean where he scored 178 to help South Africa seal a test series win, his rapid progress was halted on the tour of Australia in 2005. Despite playing Shane Warne well, he struggled and made just 152 runs in 6 innings.
He has been used in a similar fashion to Jonty Rhodes in ODIs, opening the innings, although he currently bats in the middle order. The 2005 ODI tour to India represented a 'coming of age' for De Villiers as a cricketer as he scored his second ODI half century on 24 October 2006, batting 5th in a partnership with Mark Boucher, playing against an impressive Sri Lankan side. De Villiers gave the selectors a sign by producing his then highest one-day score of 92 not out, which included 12 fours and one six, from 98 balls against India in the 2006 winter series.
De Villiers has a reputation as an outstanding fielder, typified by a diving run-out of Simon Katich of Australia in 2006, when he dived to stop the ball, and while still lying on his stomach facing away from the stumps, he tossed the ball backwards over his shoulder and effected a direct hit. This has also led people to make further comparisons of him to Jonty Rhodes as he was also one of the finest fielders of his generation.
In 2009 he was nominated as ICC Cricketer of the year and ICC Test Player of the year.
On 6 June 2011, then S.A. coach Gary Kirsten announced that AB de Villiers will be South Africa's new limited-overs captain, at a news conference. "I'm very excited but I'm also inexperienced. But I've learnt a lot the last seven years from an unbelievable captain," said De Villiers, who has never captained a team at first-class level. "It's a big responsibility, but there'll be a fresh look in the side, which is good."
Competing in the 2007 Cricket World Cup he was in career best form in ODIs having scored four 50s during the South Africa vs India/Pakistan (2007) matches.
In the early stages of the tournament his form was poor with three failures including a duck against the Netherlands in a match where his team broke various records for batting. His talent was shown by a 92 in the first round against Australia which was scored in a high-pressure situation. Indeed it was around the time De Villiers got out (run out from the boundary by Shane Watson) when South Africa lost their rhythm and went on to lose the game.
His highest innings to date in ODIs came in the Super 8 game against West Indies on 10 April 2007. He made his maiden ODI hundred, 146 from just 130 balls including 5 sixes and 12 fours. This was despite batting with a runner for the latter stages of his innings and seemingly finding every shot painful due to a combination of cramps, heat exhaustion and dehydration. His innings consisted of a second wicket partnership of 170 with Jacques Kallis and a third wicket partnership of 70 with Herschelle Gibbs the latter of which was dominated by De Villiers batting on one leg. De Villiers' innings helped set up a total of 356/4 from 50 overs.
On 4 April 2008 he became the first South African to score a double century against India with his top score of 214*.
De Villiers scored an obdurate 174 that helped set up a ten-wicket win for South Africa in the second Test against England at Headingley Carnegie in Leeds in July 2008. This was followed by a 97 at The Oval before he came down the wicket trying to smash Panesar for a boundary and was clean bowled.
In the first Test in Perth, De Villiers scored a matchwinning century to help South Africa chase down the second highest ever fourth innings target of 414 with six wickets in hand. This was South Africa's first Test victory in Australia in 15 years and appeared to go a long way towards tilting world cricket's balance of power after over a decade of Australian dominance. De Villiers also took four diving catches in the course of the match, including one to dismiss Jason Krejza, a stunner at backward point.
De Villiers only scored 11 runs though in the second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and made another low score in the first innings of the final Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground. In the second innings of that Test though, De Villiers scored a patient half-century as South Africa almost held on for an against-the-odds draw.
In the 4th ODI in Adelaide he played as wicketkeeper after Boucher was ruled out. He then scored 82 not out from 85 balls with 6 fours and a six to win the series and was named man of the match.
AB de Villiers training with South Africa in 2009.
In the first Test at the Wanderers Stadium, De Villiers provided lone resistance in the first innings against a bowling attack led by pace bowler, Mitchell Johnson, scoring 104* of 185 balls with 9 fours and 1 six, whilst his teammates all fell for under 50. But in the second innings he made only 3 of 7.
In the third test, after centuries from Ashwell Prince and Jacques Kallis, De Villiers became the third centurion of the innings with a score of 163 off 196 balls with 12 fours and 7 sixes. This knock also tied the record of most sixes in an over as De Villiers, off a McDonald over, hit four consecutive sixes.
In the following 5 game ODI series, De Villiers played consistently, although starting badly in the first game, scoring only 2 runs. However, he went on to make 36*, 80, 84, and 38, and was named Player of the Series at the conclusion of game 5.
He was rested for the two-match Twenty20 series against Zimbabwe and because Mark Boucher was injured as well Heino Kuhn donned the keeping gloves. De Villiers returned for the ODI series and also took over the gloves while Mark Boucher was recovering. He did well against Zimbabwe scoring two centuries out of the three ODIs as South Africa comfortably won the three match series 3–0.
His major challenge came against Pakistan for the two Twenty20 matches, where he kept wicket. In the first match he was out for a second-ball duck off a superb delivery by Shoaib Akhtar. In the second T20I he scored 11 runs. He then participated in the five-match ODI series where South Africa were chasing 203 to win and he scored 51 before he was caught and bowled by Saeed Ajmal. In the second ODI he scored 29 as he was bowled by Shahid Afridi; in the same match a flamboyant Abdul Razzaq played the greatest innings of his life to lift Pakistan to an unbelievable victory. During the third match he scored 19 before he was stumped by Zulqarnain Haider. It turned out to be a mistake by the umpire as he had pressed the wrong button. In the fourth match he missed out on a half-century while on 49 when he gave his wicket to the fielder at point. His good form in the series continued when he scored 61 in the final ODI as South Africa won by 57 runs and the series 3–2.
AB de Villiers scored two successive centuries in the 2011 World Cup. He became the first South African to score two centuries in a single World Cup and the fifth batsman after Mark Waugh, Saeed Anwar, Rahul Dravid and Matthew Hayden to score two consecutive centuries in a single World Cup tournament. He also became the 16th batsman to score two or more centuries in one World Cup tournament. AB de Villiers' strike rate of 136.73 is the highest among South African batsmen who have scored centuries in World Cup matches. With his third player of the match award in World Cups, de Villiers is joint second with Jacques Kallis on the list of South African players with most match awards in World Cups. Lance Klusener heads the list with five awards.
In the 2011–12 South African summer, de Villiers featured in the home series against Australia and against Sri Lanka. In the latter, he scored a century (160 not out) in South Africa's win in the third and deciding Test of the series. He was named the "Player of the Series", having scored 353 runs at an average of 117.66. He then led South Africa for his first series since being appointed captain of the One Day International team. In his first match as captain, South Africa inflicted the heaviest defeat in Sri Lanka's history, with a 258-run win in Paarl on 11 January 2012. It was also the largest margin of victory (by runs) in an ODI match between two Test-playing teams. South Africa went on to win the ODI series, and De Villiers was named player of the series, having scored 329 runs at an average of 109.66, including a century (125 not out) in the fifth and final match in Johannesburg. On 10 July, De Villiers was handed full-time wicketkeeping duties after Mark Boucher announced retirement from cricket after suffering eye injuries from a hit from a bail the day before.
On 4 February 2013, at the end of the Proteas' first test match against Pakistan, played at the Wanderers, the big electronic scoreboard displayed:
"AB de VILLIERS now equals the world record for the most dismissals in a Test match (11 dismissals) Currently held by RC Russell Eng v SA Jhb 95/96"
He also scored an unbeaten 103 off 117 balls in South Africa's second innings. In the process, he became the first wicketkeeper to score a century and claim 10 dismissals in a Test.
On 18 March, during the third ODI match of Pakistan's tour of South Africa at Johannesburg, De Villiers and Hashim Amla shared the record for the highest third wicket partnership in an ODI when they scored 238. De Villiers scored 12 fours and 3 sixes, and a total of 128.
He is the holder of rather an unwanted record for most (4) duck outs in a particular ODI series (2007 Cricket World Cup). He shares this record with Greg Chappell and Kyle McCallan (who also achieved this in the 2007 Cricket World Cup).
A devout Christian, he has stated that his faith is crucial to his approach to life. He has said "Jesus is everything in my life – he's the man", and "My faith means more to me than playing for my country. It comes first.". He is married to Danielle.