The sudden decision of AB de Villiers to retire from international cricket still remains a matter of debate among the fans and critics…..
No one saw it coming. Absolutely no one. Just 12 months before his final attempt to be a part of the World Cup winning team, Abraham Benjamin de Villiers decides to bid adieu to international cricket, leaving his fans across the globe gobsmacked.
But why? He is just 34 and arguably still South Africa’s best batsman in all three formats. De Villiers played a stellar role in South Africa’s back to back Test series triumphs against Australia and India in last home summer. In fact, against the Aussies, he looked at his best, 427 runs in four matches, including a century and four half-centuries. Against India also, he made a couple of match-winning contributions in Cape Town and Centurion Tests.
De Villiers hardly looked fatigued during those back to back series. Furthermore, he, undoubtedly, is (or I should say ‘was’) the fittest Protea cricketer on the field. The gravity-defying catch in the IPL is the perfect testament to that.
In June last year (in 2017), I was present in de Villiers’ post-match press conference following a defeat against India at the Oval, in which he clearly expressed his absolute desire to play the 2019 World Cup. In fact, there, de Villiers went on to mention that he is the ideal person to lead the team in the World Cup.
“I can take this team forward. I can take us to win a World Cup, I believe,” this was his exact statement.
Now, within one year of that press conference, in his retirement statement, de Villiers is saying, “I had my turn and to be honest I’m tired.”
Since that game at the Oval, the former skipper had played eight Test matches, six One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and five T20 Internationals in Protea colours and was on top of his game.
Henceforth his decision to step aside from international cricket raises quite a few eyebrows.
Remember, South Africa’s cricketers are among the lowest paid in cricketing world cricket. So is it another Kolpack casualty?
Well, in his retirement statement, de Villiers has claimed the decision was not taken because of financial reasons. “It’s not about earning more somewhere else, it’s about running out of gas and feeling that it is the right time to move on,” he said.
But, remember, his 11 crore INR contact in IPL is still secure and, I believe, he will now feature in other T20 leagues across the world in more frequent basis and now as a freelance cricketer, he can earn a lot more than what he used to. So, money does play an important role in his post international retirement career and that is perfectly understandable.
I believe, de Villiers’ decision has a lot to do with Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) continuous push to play him in all three formats. It is understood that in 2016, after being ruled out of the tour of Australia due to an elbow surgery, de Villiers had informed CSA about his desire of quitting Test cricket. But then the board was adamant to continue with him. So they had given de Villiers a year-long break from red-ball cricket before recalling him for home summer in 2017-18.
Don’t think wholeheartedly, he wanted to make a comeback in the Test format. But CSA literally forced him. And after the Australia series, they were probably still not in favour of de Villiers’ Test retirement. Perhaps the situation turned out to be an ego battle, which prompted the Protea star to take that drastic move of quitting from all three formats.
Or perhaps he himself felt that at this phase of the career, he cannot give his best as a batsman, in all three formats for the country.
“It would not be right for me to pick and choose where and when and in what format I play for the Proteas. For me in green and gold, it must be everything or nothing,” reads his retirement statement.
Whatever the reason may be, it is not in the best interest of South African cricket, that’s for sure.
In 2019, de Villiers’ for the Proteas would have been similar to what Lionel Messi is for Argentina in the upcoming soccer World Cup in Russia.
So, can de Villers do a Messi? Will the ‘360-degree batsman’ actually come out of retirement, wearing ‘Green and Gold’ to lift the cup in England next year?
Millions of his fans across the world certainly hope for a fairytale like this.