De Villiers at keeper a logical prospect

2012-11-06 00:00

CAPE TOWN — There could be a new twist in the complex issue of senior Proteas Test batsman AB de Villiers’s additional responsibilities as wicketkeeper.

If national coach Gary Kirsten has his way, De Villiers may actually settle in for the long haul as the designated gloveman in Tests, and instead surrender that role in the two limited-overs arenas, where he is also busy establishing himself on the captaincy front.

South Africa also intend calling on the advisory services of record-breaking predecessor Mark Boucher to help De Villiers blossom further behind the stumps.

It had initially been widely speculated that De Villiers would more probably keep at Test level only as an interim measure, in the aftermath of veteran Boucher’s international career-ending freak eye injury at the start of the 2012 series in England.

De Villiers immediately took the gloves for the victorious Test series, and did a decent job in conditions known to be challenging — so much so that extending the role to another key challenge, in Australia, became a logical prospect.

On the negative side, the versatile 28-year-old has been less imposing at the crease since going behind the stumps, and an additional concern is his occasionally flaring back trouble.

But in an interview ahead of the three-Test challenge in Australia, Kirsten provided some illuminating views on De Villiers’s situation.

“The situation is this: we feel that AB at the moment is the best keeper in the country.

“So if he’s your best gloveman what format do you want to use him in? Definitely in Test cricket.

“The other thing about him is that for a long time now he’s been exposed to international competition, so he’s comfortable in that space.

“By his own admission he feels he would like to still improve his keeping; he’s spent a lot of time, worked really hard.

“We will hopefully be able to use Mark [Boucher] also to really assist him on that side, especially when we get back from Australia and there’s a bit of time.

“We really want to engage him in that because AB has stated that he wants to be number one Test keeper in the country — which is brilliant because it gives so much balance to the eleven, now we can pick a number seven batsman.”

Kirsten suggested that ODIs may become the environment for the Proteas to experiment with a young wicketkeeper.

Although he would not commit to names, presumably the likes of Quinton de Kock and Dane Vilas, both of whom offer known batting oomph, will enter the radar.

“AB is now also captain in both limited-overs formats, so maybe we must actually get creative in ODIs in terms of keeping: that could be the opportunity to look at a young guy.

“This is not even something I’ve discussed in any [depth] with AB.

“But I do think that captaining, batting up front and keeping in 50-overs cricket is tough, perhaps a bit too much so.”

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