AB de Villiers – the name has been associated, for more than a decade, with the characteristics such as a team player, team man and somebody who has always kept his country first and everything else next. It would be unfair to say a player in the South African team wants a World Cup less than de Villiers but let’s face it, there is no one at present in the side who is as desperate as him to bring the coveted trophy home. No matter what, he wants it on his hands. He wants it on the team’s cabinet. But, does that long awaited dream allows de Villiers to keep himself ahead of the team? Does that dream approve of de Villiers’ individual decision to forget that his country must be his priority, regardless of anything else, until his last day in the game?
South Africa hadn’t beaten England at home in a Test series since 1990. The last time the two countries locked horns in the red ball game was in 2015-16 where it were the English men who ended on the winning side. After almost two year, South Africa was about to play the same side, this time in the opponent’s backyard. It went without saying that, notwithstanding their recent run, they needed their best player in the team to bolster their confidence when they embarked the crucial tour. Unfortunately, their best man has been stubborn enough off late to think about the current scenario of his Test team. Having not played for more than a year, he has suggested to not return anytime soon.
Considering his usual position in the middle-order in the Test side, he went out of his comfort zone and opened the innings, came one-down and sometimes even bowled if South Africa required him to do so. Without any complaints, he quietly took up a new job as a challenge and did not leave it until he gained success for his side. And the same man today has chosen to ignore his team; ignore the prestigious format of Test cricket. His intentions behind it are not wrong. everybody is aware how badly he has been wanting to fulfil South Africa’s dream of winning the World Cup but that does not give him any right to hang his team.
Following South Africa’s loss in England, the Proteas Captain Faf du Plessis, revealed that it is time South Africa rebuilt itself and accept the fact that de Villiers might never return in the whites. “The last time I spoke to him, he wasn’t keen to play yet again. So from my point of view, I’m not expecting him to come back. Whether we win or lose people always want AB to play because he is the best player in the team. But we’ve played a year and a half without him. I hope that he comes back and plays, but I’m not expecting him to, and I’m preparing to look ahead without him.”
Du Plessis went on to add that since de Villiers has played more than 100 Tests, around 12 years away home and has achieved every possible thing in cricket, apart from winning the World Cup, so he has earned the rights to choose his exits.
Just because he has played 100-plus Tests, he has grown superior to the game. Whatever he is today, it is because of cricket and one must not forget the roots of their success. While Cricket South Africa have been mummed all this while and have been accepting to whatever de Villiers’ decisions so far, former cricketers Herschelle Gibbs and Ashwell Price did not hesitate to slam the former Test captain, de Villiers, for ignoring Test cricket.
Interesting article this..captain putting a player on a pedestal! Never thought I'd see this..anyway pic.twitter.com/F6u17j0sVD
— Herschelle Gibbs (@hershybru) August 11, 2017
Responding to du Plessis’ comments, Gibbs Tweeted, “No captain should put a player on a pedestal”. Gibbs compared de Villiers to former Proteas all-rounder Jacques Kallis and said that “no player is bigger than the game”.
Kallis achieved more than ab ever will but he kept on playing and never disrespected the team and the game.remember that
— Herschelle Gibbs (@hershybru) August 11, 2017
He also wrote, “Kallis achieved more than AB ever will but he kept on playing and never disrespected the team and the game.remember that. Kallis achieved more than AB ever will, played longer than him to..he made his decision to retire on his own not keep anybody hanging.”
Meanwhile, Ashwell Prince, added to the criticism asking,” Just wondering at which point then @amlahash [Hashim Amla] will be allowed to do what he wants?” and said, “maybe it will soon be free for all.”
When Graeme Smith had hung his boots from international cricket, Amla was made the Test captain, ahead of de Villiers, and the latter admitted disappointment for being ignored. He is today the same man who suddenly seems disinterested in the format he so loved to play. He is in a similar situation of Sachin Tendulkar. For Tendulkar, winning the World Cup was an obsession and it is the same for de Villiers as well at the moment. That obsession led to Tendulkar stretching his career beyond 20 years but he finally lived his dream when he was almost 38 years old.
Tendulkar was given an edge because he was around the end of his career but even then he had not disregarded Test cricket. On the other hand, de Villiers, despite having a lot of cricket still left in him, he wants to turn his back towards Tests. If he has made a final call of playing only the white ball game, he needs to act on it and not let his team hanging and blocking places of other worthy players.
“I think he wanted to retire a while back from Test cricket, but Cricket South Africa persuaded him to stay on. Before 2016, he was talking to people about his Test future,” Jhonty Rhodes revealed in a recent interview. If a player has decided to move on from a format, he begins to lose interest from it and it is best to let him go. In the last one and a half year, even without him, South Africa have produced some good results and it is a matter of time they will pass the transition phase.
His absence will leave some heavy shoes to be filled but it’s something not impossible. With time, that will happen. AB de Villiers, who has always been cherished as a team man, has more or less tarnished that image of his. He has played numerous heroics knocks for the Proteas. If at all, he manages to make it to the 2019 World Cup, and yet again fails to win it, the final memory of his that will be remembered for a very long time is that he was a player who put himself above the game!