Fans of South Africa were left in shock when AB de Villiers announced his international retirement in May 2018 after indicating only months before that he was focused on winning the 2019 World Cup with South Africa. It was a tough pill for South African fans to swallow and despite all of his heroics in the green and gold shirt, it was hard to say goodbye graciously as there was a general feeling that he had more to give South Africa.
To be perfectly honest, South African fans had felt misled by de Villiers in the past after he said he needed a break from Test cricket in 2017. The then 32-year old said his family had to come first after stating his roles had changed after becoming a father. That was perfectly acceptable – only it came on the back of playing in the Caribbean Premier League in 2016 and IPL in 2018.
BREAKING: AB de Villiers has confirmed his retirement from international cricket pic.twitter.com/sc1dl13zx1
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) May 23, 2018
Justifiably, fans were left feeling let down as it seemed the boy from Pretoria was putting the bright lights and big pay cheques of T20 cricket ahead of his commitment to the national team. De Villiers came in for a lot of stick during his self-imposed exile from not only fans but ex-teammates as well. At one stage it sparked an ugly Twitter spat between former Proteas players, Ashwell Prince, Herschelle Gibbs, Simon Harmer and Paul Harris.
It all started after captain Faf du Plessis stated that AB had “the right to do whatever he wants”, which Prince and Gibbs took exception to and accused du Plessis of putting de Villiers on a pedestal and letting him get away with thinking he was bigger than the team. Naturally, good friends and ex-teammates Harmer and Harris fired up their keyboards and shot back at the two, accusing them of hanging their dirty laundry out.
Faf du Plessis’ comments were ill-advised and set a bad example for younger players coming through. Breaking away from sporting codes, could you imagine Sir Alex Ferguson saying Wayne Rooney had the right to choose in which games he played after scoring 100 goals?
Statements like that from Faf du Plessis come from a belief among a section of fans and ex-players in South Africa that de Villiers had done enough to warrant his decision to pick and choose when he plays.
It’s a sentiment that is sadly misguided though, as the Proteas didn’t win a World Cup or any ICC trophy whilst de Villiers was playing. He won’t be playing at next year’s World Cup now that he is officially retired and there’s no doubt he will be missed – especially considering moplay.co.uk have South Africa’s odds of winning at 13/2.
It’s a big blow to the South African World Cup cause but in fairness, de Villiers would often go missing in big games so it doesn’t have to mean the Proteas are already doomed for next year’s World Cup in England.
During de Villiers’ retirement announcement in May, he said he had no plans to play overseas. That looks set to change after he confirmed his participation for Pakistan’s Super League in 2019, as well as signing up to the Mzansi Super League later this year. It looks by all accounts that de Villiers is about to become a T20 mercenary and follow the likes of Kevin Pietersen’s example and hop from country to country in order to secure one last payday.
A cricketer’s career is a short one and in many instances, you can’t blame de Villiers for choosing the lucrative option. You’re just left wondering if it weren’t for the advent of T20 cricket, would de Villiers be doing everything he could do to ensure he can play for South Africa as long as possible?
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) June 11, 2017
We’re always told that we can’t have your cake and eat it. At 34 years old, de Villiers was going to have to retire sooner or later from international cricket and if he had stayed on too long many would be calling for his head. South African fans only have to cast their minds back to a time before T20 cricket and how hard it was to move their has-been superstars on who simply refused to retire.
Now that de Villiers has, it does feel as if he could have given South Africa the courtesy of trying to help them get that particular monkey off their back by winning next year’s World Cup. Instead, de Villiers will ride off into the sunset leaving South African cricket in a very similar state to which he found it.