AB on the comeback trail
My priorities have changed over the years, says fans’ favourite swashbuckling batsman
AB de Villiers still has many goals he wants to achieve in Test cricket but none of those will be realised on the fields around England this winter.
After saying on Tuesday that he had withdrawn from the three-match Test series in New Zealand in March, De Villiers confirmed yesterday that he won’t play in the four Tests against England in July and August this year. Cricket South Africa had hoped that De Villiers would avail himself for that series, but De Villiers said at SuperSport Park that he simply wasn’t ready. He also doesn’t want to play in the two Tests against Bangladesh in September.
“It was not an easy decision,” De Villiers said about withdrawing from the England Test series. “I’m just not ready. My priorities have changed over the years. I’ve played for 12-odd years, family has changed, my roles in the teams have changed over the years. A lot of things played a role in this decision. I still want to make that comeback, finish on a high and somehow have a say in us getting back that No 1 ranking which we deserve, given the way we’ve played in the last few months.”
De Villiers has targeted the series against India next summer – the dates have not yet been confirmed – for a return to Test cricket. He stressed it would only be after a spell of four-day domestic cricket for his franchise, the Titans. “I’m very prepared to come back to the Titans, score my runs, prove a point that I’m still good enough to make the Test side. It’s not like I’m going to walk back into the (Test) team,” he said.
De Villiers would not look beyond the four Tests against Australia next summer, scheduled for February/ March 2018. “My dream plan is to come back for the eight Tests and that’s all I can say for now. My focus is on the 2019 World Cup. If I feel I’m physically incapable of making it after those two Test series, I’ll call it a day then… but we’ll make that call when I get there.”
He will, as with other South Africans contracted to the event, play a portion of this year’s Indian Premier League before returning to South Africa to prepare for the three ODIs against England and then the ICC Champions Trophy which follows in June. “The IPL has become almost a part of the ICC schedule… there’s a lot of reasons why all of us couldn’t say ‘no’ to the IPL. I’m definitely not playing Big Bash, you won’t see me in any county game or any other T20 tournament… it’s about playing for South Africa and in the IPL. I’m very committed to SA cricket,” he said.
De Villiers reiterated that he was not under any pressure from his new bat sponsor – Indian company MRF – about committing to all competitions or every international match regardless of the format. That deal is understood to be over three years and is said to be worth in the region of R28-million. “MRF want me to play as much cricket around the world in all formats. I still have to negotiate some details with them.”
South Africa’s four-match Test series against India, currently the five-day format’s No1 team, will be widely viewed in that cricket-mad country as giving MRF, who also sponsor De Villiers’s close friend, Virat Kohli, a lot of air-time, with two of the most popular current players. De Villiers will play his first competitive match for nearly six months on Sunday for the Northerns semi-professional side against Easterns in a 50-over game at Willowmoore Park.
He said he still “felt” the elbow which required surgery after the Caribbean Premier League last year but was reasonably comfortable when he last had a net a week ago. “I can hit all my shots with the same power I used to. There are one or two shots where I feel (the elbow), but I’m not going to tell Sri Lanka.”
De Villiers hopes to be available for the final T20 International against the Sri Lankans at Newlands next Wednesday following which he will resume captaincy duties for the five-match ODI series against the visitors starting on January 28. PRETTY IN PINK: AB de Villiers of the Proteas during the Pink Day launch at Bidvest Wanderers. He is recovering from an elbow injury but is likely to be available for the T20 International against Sri Lanka at Newlands next Wednesday.