De Villiers has SA cricket by the balls

Times Media


AB de Villiers was given what he always wanted when Cricket SA (CSA) appointed him test captain at their board meeting on Friday.

De Villiers has coveted the job since Graeme Smith retired in March 2014, and he made plain his disappointment when Hashim Amla was preferred as Smith’s successor.

When Amla resigned on January 6 after two of the four tests SA played against England, De Villiers stepped into the breach.

He presided over the three-day hiding England dealt SA in the third test at the Wanderers to clinch the series, and the home side’s 280-run win in the subsequent dead rubber at Centurion.

The sub-plot to De Villiers’ appointment are published theories that he was considering retirement, and him declining to deny those reports when he was given more than one opportunity to do so.

In fact, he admitted the day before the Wanderers test, “There have been a few rumours floating around, and in most rumours there is always a little bit of truth.”

Giving De Villiers the captaincy, it would seem, is CSA’s attempt to keep him in the mix lest he reckon becoming an international man of T20 mastery is an easier and more lucrative way to make a living.

Spending seven weeks playing in the Indian Premier League alone is believed to be worth around 10 times more to De Villiers than what he earns annually from his CSA contract before match fees and incentives are considered.

All CSA have to keep De Villiers in harness is his commitment to the national cause, the strength of which could be dependent on much control he has over his playing schedule for SA.

But De Villiers as well as CSA know that the national team cannot afford to lose his talent, skill and presence in the throes of their sharp decline from being the top test team.

De Villiers, then, holds all the power in his relationship with CSA. It will be interesting to see how he wields it.

He warned in a CSA statement on Friday that things could worsen before they improved for a SA team who have won just one of their last 10 tests.

“We may have to fight through some tough times but the recent performances of Kagiso Rabada, Temba Bavuma, Dane Piedt, Dean Elgar and others have created an opportunity to build a team that delights and unites our country as never before,” De Villiers was quoted as saying.

Friday’s release also said CSA’s “board and members council supported the chief executive’s (Haroon Lorgat) request to undertake a comprehensive review of the (franchise) T20 competition with a view to expanding its cricket and commercial values”.

That sounds suspiciously like an attempt to spin favourably the apprehension that the sponsors of that competition, RAM Hand to Hand Couriers, have voiced over the fact that their brand is being dragged through the mud of the ongoing match-fixing scandal in SA cricket.

CSA said “the matter had been reported last year by CSA to the relevant crime unit of the SA Police Services who will now deal with any criminal aspects of the investigation”.

The board decided not to renew the annual contracts of Ryan McLaren and Lonwabo Tsotsobe, but awarded contracts to Temba Bavuma, Farhaan Behardien and Rilee Rossouw for the first time.

Vernon Philander joined a group already featuring Amla, De Villiers, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn as the only players to be put on two-year contracts.


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