Time for AB to call it quits on Test stage

Lloyd Burnard
Lloyd Burnard

Cape Town - I am a massive fan of AB de Villiers - the cricketer, not the singer. Who isn't? 

Anybody who knows anything about the game knows that, in De Villiers, South Africa is blessed to have one of the most naturally gifted batsmen to have ever played the game in our camp. 

Except, he isn't really in our camp anymore, is he? 

As angry as we all are that De Villiers has opted out of the next three Test series (New Zealand, England and Bangladesh), we shouldn't really be shocked. 

I sat in a press conference in Johannesburg this time, last year, when De Villiers had just been named captain for the last two Tests of the series against England. 

The timing was odd, but he used that platform to talk about his personal struggles with cricket; how he wasn't enjoying the game as much as he should and how he needed to re-evaluate his international workload. 

Now, a year later, that is exactly what he has done and the Proteas are suffering as a result. 

The elbow injury is not the reason for the decision; that is a thing of the past now. 

Instead, De Villiers' priorities have changed. 

He wants to play in the 2019 Cricket World Cup, that much is clear, and he makes far too much money from the IPL to give that up. 

De Villiers is expecting his second child with wife Danielle - she is due in late July/early August - and family life has become his priority. 

There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with that. How much De Villiers values his family is what we would expect from a man of his stature, and nobody can argue with his concerns over travel schedules and time away from home. 

It is also difficult to argue with the fact that he prioritises the IPL. That is where De Villiers, like most other cricketers, makes the bulk of his money. 

At the end of the day, difficult decisions have to be made and De Villiers reckons that Test cricket is the format he can live without. 

Again, that is his decision and one that must be respected. 

But no international cricketer, regardless of his ability, should ever be allowed to pick and choose which matches he plays. 

If longevity of a player is a concern, as it may very well be in De Villiers' case, then those decisions need to be taken by team management, and not the player. That, obviously, is not the case right now. 

England away in July is massive for the Proteas, and there is no doubt that management would like their best batsman available for a Test series that is set to have a major say in their quest to regain the No 1 position on the ICC rankings. 

Captain Faf du Plessis said as much in Johannesburg last week; he wants AB back as soon as possible. 

The fact that De Villiers has ruled himself out cannot be accepted. 

If he wants to make the 2019 World Cup, wants to play IPL, wants to play international T20 cricket but cannot commit to his Test future, then he should do himself and the South African cricketing community a favour and retire from the format. 

There is no doubt that South Africans would prefer he didn't, but if we have to wait in bated breath before every Test series to see if AB is going to play or not, then it seems we're in for a lot of disappointment. 

If he can't commit to the format - and he can't - then he should remove himself from it entirely. 

At least then everybody would know where they stood. 

What if a guy like Theunis de Bruyn is lost to South African cricket because he knows he will never be picked ahead of De Villiers? And then, after one of the country's brightest young prospects leaves our shores for good, we learn that AB was actually never going to play for us in white clothes again. 

De Villiers was very careful with his words in Wednesday's press conference, and while he said he was earmarking the Test series against India in late 2017 and Australia in early 2018 as his return in the format, he made a point of saying he could not commit to anything. 

So then, would it not be better if we know that from this point onward De Villiers is only available for T20Is and ODIs? 

And then, if we go that route, De Villiers must play whenever he is picked. If he wants to lead us into the 2019 World Cup, then he must be available whenever we need him between now and then. 

No player can ever be bigger than the team he is in. It is a rule of thumb in sport, but the events of the past couple of days suggest otherwise. 

Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and the former Sports Editor of The Witness newspaper ...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24

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