AB de Villiers clears air about retirement plans
The South African Test and ODI captain cleared the air over his retirement talks, and also gave hints towards something unprecedented
If you observe South Africa’s past 12 months in international cricket, you will find that even after giving away the maximum permissible relaxations to 10 of the 11 men who took to the field for the Proteas, they would still be named as a side that revolved around one man – AB de Villiers.
The runs that he made gave the SA bowlers the substance to bowl at, and the runs that those bowlers gave away were countered, at times successfully, at other times unsuccessfully. But at most times he took the team out of the pit and dragged it to a position of respectability.
De Villiers batted South Africa to the World Cup semi-final before they were the fallen heroes in a clash of titans. In India, when their batsmen were shouldering arms to straight deliveries and missing the ones that turned, it was De Villiers who stood out.
But behind those jerseys and robes, all the cricketers are made of flesh and blood and are just as fallible as the rest of us. It is to this fact that the South African Test and ODI captain drew everyone’s attention on the eve of the third Test of the ongoing Basil D’Oliveira Trophy 2015-16 against England.
Not committed to Test captaincy post this series
The skipper said that he would not commit to Test captaincy beyond the current series against England, and also talked about the rumours that were doing the rounds about his impending retirement.
“There have been a few rumours floating around and in most rumours there is always a little bit of truth,” said the 31-year old.
“It is not just in the last while, in the last two or three years I’ve been searching for the right answers to play a little bit less cricket in one way or another to keep myself fresh and to keep enjoying the game.
“I’ve found myself on the pitch in the past few years, every now and then, not enjoying myself as much as I should be and that raises concerns within myself. I’ve been searching for answers and speaking to a few people and that has leaked a little bit.”
“I’m still very committed. To the job [of captaincy] I’m not sure, obviously the two Test matches for now is all I’m focusing on, and there is a nice six-month break before we play Test match cricket again.
“Lots of things can happen before then and I don’t want to commit myself too much to everything before then, but for now I’m as committed as I can be and I’m very hungry to make a success of the next two Test matches.”
The lure of domestic T20
While these comments more than substantiated on the workload that the cricketer had to deal with over the past two years, what he said next gave grave signals to Cricket South Africa (CSA), and the ICC at large.
The West Indies have been the lone sufferers till date due the departure of marquee players towards the lucrative T20 leagues, but these statements, coming from perhaps the best batsman in the international circuit who’s still active, should ring knells for the global governing body.
“I think it is an ongoing concern for the ICC. They have been talking about it for the last few years to find a way of keeping everyone fresh. Test cricket is the main format and we all want to be part of that. There are huge traditions and culture in this format.
“But I truly believe there are one or two areas where we can improve and the guys keep their focus in the right place. There are big tournaments going on around the world at the moment and some of them you cannot ignore because financially they do make a huge difference in our lives.”
The departure of Brendon Taylor from Zimbabwe to county cricket is still fresh in everyone’s mind, and while that occurred due to the lack of finances, the underlying fact that remains is the lure towards tournaments that are cash-rich.
The cricketer, though, is not ‘all for’ such transitions as he revealed certain measures that the ICC or the respective cricket boards could take to avoid this catastrophe. “I have seen some changes in the past. There are still one or two that need to get attention from the ICC.”
“One of those is the schedules for the more senior guys to make sure they keep their focus in the right places. I don’t know what the answers are. I can’t make a statement. All I know is there are quite a few guys feeling we are playing a bit too much cricket and just need to get the focus right.”
His immediate and long-term future
On his immediate future post the series against the English and it cricketing future at large, the man with the record for the fastest 50, 100 and 150 said that he would be seeking advice from those close to him before finalizing a decision.
“I get good advice from people who have got my best interests at heart. We will just try and make the right call. My focus is on international cricket. I want to play for as long as possible.
“I have dreams of winning World Cups and No1 status in Test cricket for as long as possible. I want to get my experience across to the youngsters.”
“There are so many dreams I would want to follow again I would just like to sit down, take some time away from the game, discuss these things and make the right call.”
While it’s an open secret that cricketers have been taking the easier route by giving up on Test cricket, if De Villiers join the league, it will not only raise serious questions on the viability of the international structure, but also open the doors for many others who idolize the South African superstar.