AB’s the man who isn’t here – but might be in Australia

TMG Digital


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

CAN one player, who is not an allrounder, be worth two? Yes, if that player is AB de Villiers.

An elbow injury has taken De Villiers out of the one-day series between SA and Australia, who have rested Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.

It’s difficult to argue that SA will not be more affected by De Villiers’ absence than the Aussies will be by the fact that Starc and Hazlewood are not around.

Between them Starc and Hazlewood hold 82 ODI caps – 10 more than Scott Boland, John Hastings and Mitchell March had combined when they arrived in SA.

But De Villiers’ value to his team soars all that. He is the spark that lights their fire, the man who makes them challenge their limits of what they think is possible, and, often, the difference between winning and losing.

So it makes no sense that a SA team without him and that also doesn’t have Morne Morkel, who has a back injury, and that played the first two matches of the series without Hashim Amla have won the rubber at the earliest opportunity.

Centurion, the Wanderers and Kingsmead have hosted rousing victories for the home side.

St George’s Park could be added to the list on Sunday, and Newlands on Wednesday.

“It’s great to see that without guys like myself, Hashim, Morne Morkel, the depth is still there and the talent is coming through nicely,” De Villiers told Adelaide radio station Five AA on Friday.

“We are a very inexperienced team playing the No. 1 team in the world, and yes, Australia are also lacking in the bowling department a little with a few injuries.

“But still to beat the No. 1 team in the world, a few games in a row, speaks volumes for our depth and is great for the country’s cricket.”

De Villiers has also been ruled out for the test series SA will play in Australia next month.

But he has not accepted that fate.

“According to the surgeons and the doctors there’s no chance (of playing in the test series),” De Villiers said.

“They gave me six weeks before rehab starts, and I always feel the rehab phase can always be sped up a bit.

“Maybe after the six weeks, if I do fly over straight away, I will be there for the second test match, have the opportunity to prepare during that game, not play in it, and then be ready for the Adelaide test.

“Which will be a dream come to true – to play in a day-night test match against Australia at the Adelaide Oval.”

That would have made listeners in Adelaide sit up but it’s a long shot.

De Villiers plays all three formats for SA, is an established star in the Indian Premier League and played in the Caribbean Premier League this year.

Simply, he has been going full tilt for too long.

“In the last couple of seasons I did push it too much,” De Villiers said.

“I was driven to go and win the 2015 World Cup so an injury was never going to keep me off the park. I was always going to just work through it.

“After the 2015 World Cup there was a big dip in my fitness when it comes to physical fitness and also mentally. I was a little bit drained.

“I only realised after the World Cup that I had been pushing it a bit hard.

“For the last two seasons, playing all three formats with the hectic schedule from the ICC (International Cricket Council), I didn’t manage it as well as I could have and I am praying the price now.” 

If that sounds as if De Villiers is adding substance to theories that he is close to retiring, he isn’t.

“The biggest dream for me is the 2019 World Cup,” he said. “I will have to manage myself to get there.

“I am a fit guy and I am not too heavy on my feet so I can definitely move around, maybe even further than 2019 but to me the World Cup dream is the main one.

“I would love to be around for that 2019 World Cup.”

De Villiers will turn 35 during the 2019 World Cup.

Perhaps by then he will be worth only one-and-a-half players. 

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