TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
WHAT you are about to read could get your head shoved down a toilet were you dumb enough to suggest it in certain dressingrooms.
But, what the hell, here it comes: what if AB de Villiers doesn’t return to South Africa’s test team?
Not because his surgically repaired elbow bothers him longer than expected. Not because he does the financial math and realises all this volk en vaderland stuff, while worthy, isn’t worth all the bother when there’s a slew of T20 suits banging down his door with offers of exponential higher earnings for an exponentially lighter workload.
Neither of the above. What, instead, if De Villiers does not return to South Africa’s test team because he is not picked?
That’s right: what if Abraham Benjamin de Villiers, to batting what Banksy is to street art, Pikachu in pads, a comet at the crease, is dropped?
All together now: “Who would replace him?”
That is all that matters when selectors, both amateur and professional, get it into their heads to make changes.
But in this already extraordinary season even truths chiselled in stone could just as well be scribbled in sand.
So much so that the question begs to be turned inside out: “Who would you drop for De Villiers?”
Answer that before you lift the toilet seat.
Stephen Cook, Dean Elgar, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock all scored centuries in Australia, and Cook and Duminy did so under pressure of losing their places.
What more could you ask of those players? For any of them to have to make way would, in the real world, be grounds for unfair dismissal. So much for that idea.
The other two members of South Africa’s top seven, Hashim Amla and Temba Bavuma, did not hoist hundreds Down Under. Ah. Thank goodness for that.
How about the axe falls on Amla, a great batsman, a fine human being and the single biggest reason for South Africa’s batting success over several years … Howbout no way in hell.
So we drop Bavuma, who scored a vital 51 in Perth, an equally important 74 in Hobart and gathered respect and cult followers everywhere he went … Good luck with that.
And remember that we are dealing with a team that went to Australia without De Villiers and were soon without Dale Steyn.
And won the series, and did so under De Villiers’ stand-in as captain, Du Plessis, and are a better, stronger more settled unit now than they have been since before the tour to Bangladesh in July last year.
How do you justify messing with any of that?
Who would have thought it would come to this: what to do about a problem called De Villiers? Even in the year of Brexit and Donald bloody Trump, that looms as a ridiculousness too far.
None of which is to deny what De Villiers is – the most destructive batsman in the game. But in his last three test innings he has faced a total of nine balls and scored zero runs.
Like Amla, De Villiers deserves an opportunity to put that right. But, like Cook and Duminy, he’s the one who should be under pressure to perform and is hardly in a position to command a favour from the selectors.
But how else would he, all things being equal, be returned to South Africa’s team?
That will be answered in the coming days when Linda Zondi and his panel come up with the squad to play Sri Lanka.
Best we read that list of names while sitting on the toilet.