TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
MOST of AB de Villiers’ organised interactions with the press pass seamlessly. Glibly, even, as SA’s captain extraordinaire rattles off answers as ordinary as the questions that prompt them.
But, sometimes, a spark is thrown and a flame flares – like it did in De Villiers’ press conference in Guyana ahead of the triseries opener between SA and West Indies that starts at 7pm (SA time) on Friday.
De Villiers had journeyed to the Caribbean from Bangalore, where he had played in the Indian Premier League (IPL) final on Sunday.
Even if he went by the shortest route would have had to cross the west half of India, the Indian Ocean, then the African continent – from the horn in the east to the bulge of the western coast – and the Atlantic Ocean before touching down at Cheddi Jagan International Airport some 41 kilometres south of Georgetown, Guyana on South America’s north coast.
That’s a trip of around 14 700 kilometres as the crow flies. So De Villiers might be forgiven for his tetchiness when, in one of the most ordinary utterances yet heard at a press conference, a reporter said he was “still looking a bit jetlagged”.
The reply froze the breeze even as it ruffled De Villiers’ hair: “Do I? I don’t feel that way, thank you. But thanks for the compliment.”
Fair enough. But might De Villiers’ trigger have been squeezed by something else blown in by that hair-ruffling breeze?
It’s one thing for a cricketer to travel 14 700 kilometres and have to put up with a facile non-question, quite another to go all that way and then not be able to complete the requisite preparation for the task ahead because of days of rain – time that could have been spent with family or somewhere quiet and recuperative after the hurly-burly of the IPL.
“Those things happen; you have obstacles,” De Villiers said. “Things are not meant to go perfectly all the time.
“We’ve got to make sure we use all the maturity and experience we have to get through it, and to make sure we put in a good performances.
“We’ve got a really good culture in the side and we’re going to have to rely on that with our preparations because there’s been a bit of rain around.”
SA’s only warm-up match, against a West Indian Cricket Board XI in Port of Spain on Sunday, was also affected by rain: Duckworth/Lewis declared it a tie after 24.1 overs of the home side’s reply to SA’s 280/9.
Still, that’s a happier tale than that of West Indies, who lost two games against a Barbados Select XI last week despite the presence in both matches of nine of the 14 members of their triseries squad.
“We were a little rusty, probably below par, for the practice games,” captain Jason Holder, another IPL returnee, said. “But we didn’t have the full squad either. We have guys coming back from the IPL, who have been playing cricket, and I expect good things from them.”
That’s if the weather allows. A 77% chance of rain has been forecast from 5am (Guyana time) on Friday, dipping to 76% by 8am on Saturday.
Some 30 millimetres could fall in that period, a mere sprinkling in a country hard by the Amazon rain forest and in which the capital was built far enough below sea level to require a wall to keep the ocean out.
There’s not a lot De Villiers can do about that. Except hope that the skies clear soon enough to allow Tuesday’s game against Australia to go ahead.
When SA’s captain does make it onto the field, his first job will be to remember the 30 other overs he hasn’t had to to think about for the past seven weeks – not least because he hasn’t been captaining.
But now he is, and suddenly factors like bowling and field changes and the over-rate will be uppermost for him. At least he won’t have to think about his own batting too much.
“I don’t change too much with my game in the three formats – I’m going to watch the ball and stick to the basics,” De Villiers said seamlessly. Glib, even.