AB de Villiers targets a surprise return in November, as he looks to defy the odds by travelling to Australia in time for the day-night Test match, despite being advised against it by his doctor.
An elbow surgery had ruled him out of the ongoing ODIs against Australia and the following three match Test series. The Protea captain, however, is keen to travel with the team down under where his presence will be a massive boost for South Africa.
South Africa's third Test of the tour at Adelaide from November 24 is scheduled to be a day-night encounter, the first of its kind for South Africa.
However, De Villiers will not be fit before the Adelaide Test, so his participation in the first two Tests is ruled out. If he can reach in time for the second Test, he can prepare himself for the warm-up day-night match before the Adelaide game. The warm-up might be crucial because he has no prior experience of playing with the pink ball under lights.
De Villiers has had surgery on his left elbow to fix a persistent problem that was causing him excruciating pain, but he remains hopeful that he will be ready to play the day-night Test match. The elbow injury had prevented his participation in South Africa's first series of the season at home against the Kiwis.
" I’m holding onto that (hope) a little bit," de Villiers told FiveAA. "According to the surgeons and the doctors there’s no chance. They did give me six weeks before rehab starts. I always feel the rehab phase can be sped up a bit."
De Villiers had his surgery this week, and the six-week timeline would take him through to the week beginning November 14. The second Test at Hobart’s starts on November 12. "So maybe after the six weeks, if I do fly over straight away, I’ll be there for the second Test match," de Villiers added. "There may be an opportunity to prepare during that game – not play in it – and then be ready for the Adelaide Test, which would be a dream come true to play in a day-night Test against Australia."
The 32-year-old attempted to prove his fitness at a Proteas training session in Johannesburg before the ODI series against Australia but was unable to pass. After a lengthy period of rest and rehabilitation and having the injured joint heavily strapped, surgery was the only option when he could no longer play without major pain.
"A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do and unfortunately I’ve got to sort this out," de Villiers said. "It came at a really bad time; there’s one Test series you really don’t want to miss out on and it’s playing Australia in Australia." De Villiers said he had pushed himself too hard to play through minor injuries.
Speaking about his troubles with injury, De Villiers reckoned that the drive to be a part of a World Cup-winning South African team made him forget his niggles in the past. Under his captaincy, South Africa reached the semi-final of the 2015 World Cup, but lost to a spirited co-hosts, New Zealand, at the Eden Park, Auckland.
"I think in the last couple of seasons I did push it a bit too much,’ the Proteas star said. "I was very driven to win the 2015 World Cup and an injury was never going to keep me off the park. I was always going to just work through it. ‘I think after that World Cup there was a big difference in my physical fitness and also mentally, I was a bit drained. I only realised that after the World Cup that I’d been pushing too hard."
Despite an injury-filled season, De Villiers is confident that he can push on until at least the 2019 World Cup in England. "That’s the biggest dream for me, that 2019 World Cup," he said. "I will have to manage myself to get there. I’ve always been a fit guy, I could maybe go even further than 2019. But to me 2019 is the main one. I would love to be around for that World Cup … if I get selected, of course."
De Villiers is a crucial element in South Africa's team across formats. Despite their impressive run in the ongoing ODIs against Australia, South Africa will know that, without AB, the trip Down Under won't be easy work. Though they will take heart from their Test series victory over Kiwis without him, they will be keeping their fingers crossed to avail of a fit De Villiers for the day-night game.