TELFORD VICE, Johannesburg
“EXCITEMENT,” AB de Villiers said as a media manager tried to quieten the burble heightened by his arrival half-an-hour early for his press conference ahead of Thursday’s third test between SA and England at the Wanderers in Johannesburg.
Excitement indeed. For the first time since reports surfaced almost three weeks ago that De Villiers was considering retirement, the non-embedded media had the chance to discover how committed he was to the national cause and to the job of captaining SA’s test team, which is his for the last two matches against England.
“For two or three years I’ve been searching for the right answers, to play less cricket one way or another to keep myself fresh and to keep enjoying the game,” De Villiers said.
“I find myself on the pitch in the past few years – every now and then, not very often – not enjoying myself as much as I should be. That raises concerns within myself. I’ve been searching for those answers and talking to a few people.
“I’m still very committed. To the job, I’m not sure. The two test matches is all I’m focusing on and there’s a nice big break of six months before we play test cricket again. Lots of things can happen before then.
“I don’t want to commit myself too much to everything before that. For now I’m as committed as I can be and very, very hungry to make a success of the next two test matches.”
What factors would count when he considered his future?
“I honestly don’t know. But I’ve got some good advice around me, good people who have my best interests at heart, and we’ll just try to make the right kind of call on which direction I want to go.
“My focus is on international cricket and I want to play for SA as long as possible. I’ve got dreams of winning World Cups and maintaining this (team’s) No. 1 status in test cricket for as long as possible.
“Obviously I want to get my experience across to some of the youngsters. There are so many dreams that I’d like to follow.
“I’d just like to sit down, take some time away from the game and discuss all these things and make the right call.”
Royal Challengers Bangalore have secured De Villiers’ services for the next two editions for the Indian Premier League (IPL) at a cool US$1.4-million each.
Or close on R23.5-million, and who knows how much that figure will grow in SA’s increasingly fluid fiscal future. De Villiers’ contract with Cricket SA, meanwhile, is believed to be worth between R2-million and R3-million.
The math isn’t hard to do, even if match fees are added into the equation: De Villiers would seem to make around 10 times less playing for SA than in the IPL.
In that sense, what De Villiers does for SA cricket, compared to his IPL deal, is closer to national service than playing professional sport.
Maybe money was on his mind on Wednesday, what with his quip that he wanted to make England “feel uncomfortable and remind them they are away from home, and to not enjoy the pound and the rand currency exchange too much”.
De Villiers sounds determined to guide SA to the victory they need to stay alive in a series England lead 1-0 – a victory De Villiers believed was closer after the fighting draw at Newlands.
“I’ve played enough series to know that a momentum shift doesn’t just happen. It’s a big thing in a big series like this.”
In that vein, SA made a big call on Wednesday by releasing Dane Piedt and Rilee Rossouw from their squad, guaranteeing an all-seam attack.