Many top batters have graced South African cricket, giving the game some unforgettable batting feats to savour. From Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards to Keppler Wessels, Gary Kirsten, Herschelle Gibbs, the rainbow nation has seen many batting greats leave a lasting impression on the game.
However, the Protea batting hall of fame isn’t complete till you add a certain AB de Villiers to the mix. A batting extraordinaire, who won the purists over with his copybook strokes as much as he wowed spectators with those astonishing lap shots and switch hits that screamed over the fence.
Considered the batting enforcer and a finisher in the Proteas line-up, AB de Villiers single-handedly won many games for his country. He was also a gun fielder, with many stunning catches to his credit.
Though the final years of his playing career were blighted by injuries, many felt he still had some years of cricket left in him when he decided to call it a day. The decision left the cricketing world in shock and his fans bemused.
Announcing his retirement from all forms of the game, de Villiers said, “I have had my turn, and to be honest, I’m tired.”
He made the curtain call after featuring in 114 Tests, 228 one-day internationals and 78 Twenty20 internationals.
It’s been a year since his surprise exit stunned the world, but not a day goes by when cricket fanatics rue missing him in action and wondering if he left the game a tad too soon.
Opening up why he decided to quit, AB de Villiers was quoted as saying, “It’s been unbearable at times: the pressure you have to face, performing day in and day out.”
Saying that the expectations from fans was often too much to bear and he did not like getting too much attention, he said, “The expectation that you put on yourself, from fans, from the country, from coaches.”
Saying the game often did not afford him enough time for his family, he claimed he did not regret quitting. “It is huge, and it’s something that’s on your mind all the time as a cricketer. And it’s definitely something I’m not going to miss. I’m very happy to have stepped away. Absolutely no regrets,” the former Protea said.
However, he was drawn into a retirement controversy after South Africa suffered three consecutive losses in the 2019 World Cup. Then convenor of selectors Linda Zondi claimed De Villiers had approached him, then coach Ottis Gibson and captain Faf du Plessis, offering to come out of retirement and represent the Proteas in the quadrennial showpiece. Zondi added that his offer was rejected by the management.
On Friday, however, the batting great released a statement saying he “did not offer” to come out of retirement but was asked privately if he would consider returning to action for the ICC event.
He said he copped criticism for picking and choosing tournaments after stepping away from the game.
“I made absolutely no demands at all. I certainly did not try to force my way into the World Cup squad on the eve of the tournament, and did not expect to be included. There was no burning issue from my side and no sense of injustice,” the batting great clarified.
“During the weeks and months that followed (his retirement), there was no formal contact between Cricket South Africa or the Proteas and me. I didn’t call them, and they didn’t call me. I had made my decision and the Proteas moved on,” he added.
Truth be told, the Proteas have been in desperate straits since AB de Villiers went and a run of defeats and poor results testify to the same. Without Kallis and De Villiers, their batting simply doesn’t look the same.
Hence, controversy or not, Ab de Villiers could still be a terror for the opposition if he were to return. However, unless you take some wishful fans seriously, that doesn’t seem likely.