AB de Villiers walks back into your dressing room…Faf du Plessis has heard that one before. South Africa’s captain spent much of his time with the press at the men’s World Cup this year explaining how and why an apparent offer from De Villiers to return for the tournament wasn’t taken up.
Thanks to Mark Boucher, Du Plessis is hearing about a De Villiers comeback again. But, this time, it could happen.
“I’m so used to that question now,” Du Plessis said on Monday (December 17) after captaining the Paarl Rocks to triumph in the Mzansi Super League final. To the delight of a sold-out home crowd they thumped, by eight wickets with 34 balls remaining, the Tshwane Spartans – who failed to capitalize on the 37-ball 51 scored by one Abraham Benjamin de Villiers.
De Villiers shocked the world game in May last year when, three months after his 34th birthday, he retired from international cricket to join the band of T20 mercenaries traveling from tournament to tournament. It seemed he had had enough of the personal commitment required to play in all formats at the international level as well as in the T20 franchise arena. The sacrifices his family had to make to allow him to do so had mounted, as had the pressure that came with being South Africa’s superstar. Now, it seems, things have changed and he is in discussions with the relevant figures.
“People want AB to play and I am no different,” Du Plessis said. “Those conversations [with De Villiers] have been happening for two or three months already – what does it look like, how does it look over the next year, and that’s where it starts. T20 cricket is a different beast; it’s not a lot of time away from home. If you are a full campaigner you have to get stuck in and spend a lot of time on the road. Test cricket now is the most important thing but also the T20 World Cup is not too far away. I reckon there are 20 T20s over the season, which won’t be that hard. Those conversations have already taken place and will do before the next T20 series starts.”
After being unveiled as South Africa’s coach on Saturday, Boucher was ambushed into saying he wouldn’t mind having De Villiers in the fold for the T20 World Cup in Australia in October and November next year:
But even De Villiers won’t be able to slip seamlessly into the T20 World Cup squad as if he had never been away. South Africa are scheduled to play six T20Is against England and Australia at home in February with another five against West Indies in August. He will have to play in at least some of those to regain his international eligibility, which doesn’t sound difficult – a grand return in front of home crowds against high-profile opponents, or a family holiday in the Caribbean with a spot of cricket for dad thrown in.
After months of gloom in the game, much of it caused by a dangerously inept Cricket South Africa administration, a bubble of something like happiness is swelling. Boucher’s appointment, Graeme Smith signing on as acting director of cricket and Jacques Faul being made acting chief executive all happened last week and are important factors in stopping the decline. Having De Villiers’ back in a South Africa shirt would fit snugly into that narrative.
\”We’ve seen that first-hand. It was the dark ages last week and there’s a little bit of light this week and that’s very good. It’s very important; it will help the dressing room and even the supporters. It’s good that there is a bit of positivity around in and there’s excitement in the air, for myself included.” And, no doubt, for AB de Villiers.