What’s up with AB de Villiers?

It’s usually a sorry sight to see a great of his era readying himself to depart the game. There’s usually an announcement, following a period of speculation, that the end is nigh and the curtain is about to be drawn. Yet, with AB de Villiers, we might be about to witness a damp squib of an exit; it might be a tragic sight.

The painful defeat to New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup and the circumstances that facilitated it, did irreperable damge to de Villiers

c. Hales b. Crane could well be de Villiers’s final dismissal in a South Africa shirt. Something has been amiss for a while now and it has been obvious for all to see. The explosive elan that we have all become so familiar with has evaporated from his game; AB looks a shell of his former self.

The 2015 World Cup semi final seems to be the smoking gun here. With a great opportunity to reach their first ever World Cup final, South Africa’s selection for the crunch games against New Zealand was at the mercy of politics and the lamentable quota system. A half fit Vernon Philander was brought in for an in form Kyle Abbott.

As if to rub salt into the wounds of their exit, Grant Elliot, the South African all rounder and naturalised Kiwi was the one to inflict the mortal blow. So much talent lost; so much talent wasted.

Things haven’t really been the same for AB, or indeed South Africa, since. An exodus of talent has taken up the Kolpak route into County Cricket fearing its imminent closure with the arrival of Brexit, most notably Abbott himself.

There was also a peculiar episode surrounding the Test captaincy, which was vacated mid Test series against England by Hashim Amla in 2015. de Villiers took on the role on a temporary basis; his sum total of two Tests as skipper was the remainder of that England series.

Whilst Faf du Plessis has taken over the Test and T20 captaincy, de Villiers has remained as ODI skipper and his leadership has been openly questioned in the media. During South Africa’s stay in England for an ODI series, the Champions Trophy and a T20 series ,his leadership has been insipid and uninspiring. Great players do not always make great leaders.

In his post match interviews during the T20 series, where he was standing in for the absent du Plessis, de Villiers looked like he wanted to be anywhere other than talking to Ian Ward. Nothing against Ward here, he’s a fine commentator, questioner and presenter, but de Villiers’s heart was so clearly not in it. He looks past caring.

He had already said some time ago that he was to skip South Africa’s Test series in England, which starts next week. It’s a marquee series and South Africa’s marquee player will be at home of his own volition. He was happy to spend six largely wretched weeks in Bangalore for a dismal IPL campaign earlier in the year, though.

He wants to return for the September Test series against Bangladesh. But he doesn’t want to play England… something is horribly amiss, not least because South Africa should be desperate to avenge the defeat they suffered at the hands of England in the 2015 series.

de Villiers is due to sit down with his bosses in August to map out his South Africa future. At 33, picking and choosing when he does and does not play, it could well be that he does not have one.

A sorry end to a sparkling career beckons. These things always come out in the wash, but it’s all too apparent that something has broken. AB is not playing with the heart, nor the panache, that he used to. If a T20 in Cardiff was to be his swansong, it was not the ending that his career deserved.

Cricket will be poorer without him.

By Miles Reucroft

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5 comments on “What’s up with AB de Villiers?

  1. I certainly agree with your final point. The game will be much poorer without his presence.

    I think you might be jumping the gun though with this piece. It seems he will retire from playing red ball cricket but the World Cup in 2019 seems to be his priority. Graeme Smith wrote a good piece that appeared in the Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/cricket/graeme-smith-column-ab-de-villiers-south-africa-cricket-test-one-day-squad-captain-a7808956.html

    It should not be forgotten that he has toured England on 3 occasions in his career already. If he had come for all formats this year he would have been in England for almost 3 months and with a young family that is a big ask in the modern game. Especially for one who has absolutely nothing to prove.

    He certainly looked uninterested during the 20-20 games but to be fair most of the spectators and cricket fans as a whole didn’t need this series or the West Indies vs India series going at the moment either. There is too much cricket. Less is more and if the governing bodies keep flogging these meaningless series then the game is going to get much worse before it gets any better.

    AB has played over 100 times for his country in test cricket and averages over 50 which means that his place in the pantheon of cricketing greats is all but assured. Clearly being overlooked for the test captaincy a couple of years ago hurt him deeply but his big mate Faf has stepped into the captaincy boots and has delivered thus far.

    One of the main factors that will decide his future is the hunger that he has to win something with South Africa but you should not overlook his RCB ambitions too. For a side that boasts several of the greatest ODI batsmen of all time they have never won the competition.

    I for one hope that AB remains an international player for another couple of years. The demands on the modern player’s time is getting beyond a joke now and perhaps AB will be the first of several high profile players to call time on test cricket in order to focus on the shorter formats. Whilst I object to this in some instances AB has done his time and now deserves to do whatever he feels is best for himself and the game. He has left a mark on the game that few, if any, will ever get near.

    This is his partnership with Kohli in last year’s IPL. It was one of the most incredible pieces of batting I have ever witnessed and it is moments like this that have ensured his legacy in the game.


  2. Mr. 360 is one of the most loveable overseas player in India. He do not play for India but, he has occupied a space in almost every Indian Heart.

    We love you AB ?