South African star AB de Villiers says time away from the game has made him realise that cricket remains the most important part of his life. The stylish batsman, who recently quit ODI captaincy and announced his return to Tests after a self-imposed exile, said he could reflect on where his career and life is headed in the past 12 months.
"The last 12 months have been very important to me. Just really finding my feet again. In a way pressing the reset button. Looking back at what happened in the last 12-odd years and also assessing where I want to go and what I needed to achieve still," said de Villiers at a MRF event on Tuesday.
"To feel happy in my life at the end of the day having stepped down from ODI captaincy. I feel very refreshed, revived and ready to go again. I have very quickly realised that it (cricket) is the most important thing in my life.
"I just want to enjoy the last few years of my career. Whether it is three to five to seven years that I don't know. As long as it is needed to be a happy man walking off the cricket field," he said.
He is already looking forward to the next year's home series against India.
"It will be a great series as the two teams always play really good cricket. But Quite a bit of cricket coming up before India series, we are playing Bangladesh. The series against India is going to be great.
"They have given a run for the money when we last played in South Africa. I remember Sachin's (Tendulkar) last series in SA, we drew 1-1. Hopefully, I will be with the boys on the park to compete against India," he said.
De Villiers said he will have to work hard to get back into the South African Test team. He played his last Test in January 2016.
"It is not that I can just walk into the team. I have to work hard for it. I am prepared to work really hard to be selected to play against India," he said.
"It was a special occasion. The ball was spinning quite a bit. Jadeja beat me a couple of times. We both enjoyed being out there. We are completely different players. Virat, in his own way, is the best player I have ever seen. He says that quite a lot about me, which I don't believe is true.
"It's pure enjoyment and the respect for each other and for the game. When you play at the highest level, you need to be yourself at times to remember what sort of footsteps you follow. Being there on that day with Virat, I felt very special and being in India itself was special."
To a question on the support he enjoys in India, de Villiers said, "It takes my breath away. I am blessed in that regard. I love the people here, love coming here and love the country. I truly enjoy being here every second. I love playing in front of the crowds here, nothing more electric than that."
On people's perception that South Africans were taking IPL more seriously than playing for the country, de Villiers said nothing comes close to representing the national team.
"I am not sure. It's up to the individual; they can play wherever they want to make themselves better cricketers. For me, my country South Africa always comes first. IPL has been an incredible lesson for me and my family.
"I have enjoyed every second of my stay in the country and hopefully many more years to come. But cricket in South Africa will always take priority for me and I think it's for any South African born.
"Once those corners are cut off and you realise you can't represent the country anymore and the chances are less, I have no problem with someone going to play cricket (England, India or Australia) anywhere. Whatever makes him happy."
As to how challenging it was for a cricketer to strike a balance with T20 tournaments around the globe, he said: "It's not easy. I have a good relationship with Cricket South Africa administrators, COO Haroon Lorgat and a few other people.
"When you do feel it's time to step away from the game for a bit and that decision entirely belongs to the player, I believe. I have given absolute dedication to represent my country for 12-13 years. I asked for a few months off to touch base with my family and I am glad I did that.