TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
AB de Villers or Faf du Plessis? The question of who should captain South Africa is burning a hole through the heads of their cricketminded compatriots.
De Villiers, the man appointed to take charge of the test and one-day sides, has been out with an elbow injury since July. On Tuesday he batted in the nets for the first time since undergoing surgery and he is on course to play in a T20 for the Titans on Sunday.
Plan A is that he will be fit for the first test against Sri Lanka at St George’s Park on December 26.
But in De Villiers’ absence Du Plessis, contractually South Africa’s T20 captain, has led them to victory in test series against New Zealand and Australia, and in a one-day rubber against the Aussies.
What to do …
One prominent cricketminded South African was in no such quandary.
“AB’s the captain, he’s definitely the captain,” Dale Steyn said. “I know Faf’s done really well for us but (De Villiers) is the captain, and he’s earned that spot.
“He’s played for us for a long time, he’s said he wants to do it, he got the opportunity and unfortunately he got injured. But he’s the man at the end of the day.
“Stepping back into the side, there should be almost no question about it. I know there are eyebrows raised because Faf’s done well but there should never be any question about who the real captain is.
“He should just step back into it and continue doing what Faf’s already started.”
But someone who has been there and done that with great success had a different priority for the return of a player who, long before he was elevated to the captaincy, was revered as one of the finest batsmen in the game.
“The most important thing for AB is just to focus on getting back and fit and playing cricket,” former South African captain Graeme Smith said.
“I don’t think he should even engage in thinking about (the captaincy), and he can’t captain from the sidelines.
“I think that’s what he’s focused on now – getting himself fit. An elbow injury is not an easy thing to recover from.
“It takes time getting those tendons strong and all those muscles, because that’s your primary (left) arm that (right-handers like De Villiers) use when you bat.
“He should just focus on that and the sooner we can get him playing cricket for South Africa again the better.”
Steyn, his own arm in a sling as he recovers from the broken shoulder that took him out of South Africa’s test series in Australia last month, and Smith, now retired, were part of the pre-match milieu at the Nelson Mandela Legacy Cup at Newlands on Thursday.
Smith, the only other South African captain to lead his team to a test series triumph in Australia, which he accomplished twice, served as the Springboks’ player/coach in their T20 against the Proteas.
Also there was De Villiers, who held up his elbow for inspection.
Slightly swollen with a thin, pink scar trickling across the funny bone would be the non-medical diagnosis.
The prognosis? Get fit, then we’ll talk.