TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
WHAT would AB do? It’s a question South Africans will hope doesn’t come up too often in the next two months.
In that time SA will play Australia in five one-day internationals and three tests.
And they will have to do so without AB De Villiers, who requires elbow surgery and has been ruled out.
De Villiers is SA’s captain in both formats as well as their star batsman.
Australia are the No. 1 team in ODIs and they are two places above fifth-ranked SA on the test ladder.
How worried should those South Africans be?
“Put it this way, the Australians are happy,” former SA coach Eric Simons told TMG Digital on Wednesday.
“Any team that loses AB de Villiers is not going to be as strong as it would have been.”
How much weaker will they be?
De Villiers has missed only four of the 110 tests SA have played since he made his debut in December 2004.
None of those matches have been against Australia, who have won 11 of the 20 tests De Villiers has played against them.
Of his 26 ODIs against Australia, SA have won 13: exactly half.
That drops to a third when De Villiers is not in the mix – played nine, won three.
“The (SA) team are in a transition phase and they rely on three or four players,” Simons said.
“AB is, massively, one of them.”
Indeed. But SA found a way to beat New Zealand without De Villiers in a test series last month.
That said the Kiwis, flinty, clever and competitive though they are, are not the Aussies.
Among the few truths of South African cricket that have survived everything history has put in their path – including 22 years of isolation – is that Australia are the team South Africans measure their side against.
Starting on Friday, when SA and Australia meet at Centurion in the first of five ODIs, that truth will be held up to the light again.
De Villiers, no doubt, will watch as carefully as the rest of us.