South Africa need AB de Villiers, but will he come back?
The current series between South Africa and Australia has cut a sorry figure until now. Both teams appear to be a pale shadow of their formidable past.
Australia are lagging heavily in self confidence as they still seem to be reeling from the ball-tempering fiasco, while South Africa are still trying to get accustomed to life without AB de Villiers. The out-of-form Hashim Amla and steadily declining performances of Quinton De Kock haven't helped the cause much.
Both teams seem to have a very good bowling lineup. But when it comes to batting, it is a completely different story.
What Australia lack is the authoritarian dominance of the past. The team has talent, match winners and all the right ingredients, so with good direction and support, we might see them back to their formidable best in no time.
South Africa, on the other hand, have a huge problem on their hands. They have lost their biggest ace, AB de Villiers, to retirement. And the shoes that he has left are too big to fill for anyone.
In conjunction with that, Amla hasn't fired on all cylinders and De Kock hasn't scored with the same pomp as he used to earlier. Faf du Plessis is the only formidable part of the middle order right now and he alone cannot steer the ship all the time.
Whether South Africa like it or not, they need to take stock of the current situation and try to lure their biggest X-factor back. The World Cup is just around the corner, and the chances of the Proteas mounting a challenge with this team are just too bleak.
Could they benefit from the specific timing of De Villiers' career decisions?
De Villiers retired from international cricket citing burnout and too high a workload. Now he's had a good break, he's still fit, and it highly improbable that he wouldn't want another crack at the World Cup.
What he would need is maybe some motivation, maybe someone approaching him and convincing him that the team needs him badly. Imran Khan has shown in the past that champions can come back and achieve greatness in cricket. And the example of Imran Khan is as good as any you could think of.
Is this be the right time for AB de Villiers to come back? More importantly, will he come back? It's a fascinating question that could have an equally fascinating answer.