This is not the time to be bashing AB

AB de Villiers (Getty)
AB de Villiers (Getty)

Cape Town - Absolutely nobody is immune to the wrath that comes from a frustrated South African sporting public. Nobody. 

It doesn't matter who you are. It doesn't matter if you are a national captain, one of the most talented players your sport has ever seen or if you have devoted 12 years to playing for your country. Once you piss off South African sports fans, you're toast. 

AB de Villiers is experiencing that in abundance right now. 

His Champions Trophy is going horribly. He has made four runs from two innings and then South Africa lost to Pakistan. That's all it took for the masses to turn. 

Now, as the No 1 batsman in ODI cricket looks to recover from a hamstring strain in time for Sunday's crunch clash against India, he must do so in the knowledge that there is an ever-growing group of supporters that would rather see Faf du Plessis lead the side in that match.

It is hardly ideal. 

Regardless of which way you spin it, De Villiers' decision not to play Test cricket for South Africa this year left a bitter taste. He is now openly picking and choosing which Test series he wants to be a part of, and that is not okay. 

AB says he wants to make his dreams come true by playing in and winning the 2019 World Cup, and that his reason for limiting his Test participation is because he wants to manage his workload to ensure that he is in prime physical condition when that tournament comes. 

His IPL participation, however, remains. 

When this was all breaking at the beginning of the year, I was a firm believer that De Villiers should retire from Test cricket. I still feel that way. If you can't commit to playing for your country whenever they need you, then you should remove yourself from the equation entirely. 


But the events of the past couple of days, and the amount of hate that has been launched De Villiers' way, is unjustified. He does not deserve that. 

Maybe Du Plessis is a better leader than De Villiers, and maybe De Villiers wasn't the most level-headed person when the heat was on against Pakistan, but demanding a leadership change mid-tournament is disgustingly short-sighted. 

Then there is the argument that De Villiers doesn't stand up in major tournaments, but a look at the record books suggests otherwise. 

In 35 World Cup and Champions Trophy matches, De Villiers has scored 1598 runs at an average of 52.96.

The Proteas have a top order that should really come good most times. De Kock, Amla, Du Plessis, De Villiers ... you would always expect one or two of those names to make runs. Against Pakistan, it didn't happen.

But this is still a Proteas side that has risen to the top of the pecking order in ODI cricket. They whitewashed Australia, whitewashed Sri Lanka and won 12 successive matches before they eventually lost to New Zealand. 

De Villiers may have lost four of his last 10 matches as skipper, but this is not the time to start launching attacks at him. 

Sri Lanka showed on Thursday that India are very beatable. There is no reason that, provided they play to their ability, South Africa can't get the job done. 

While their participation in the tournament is certainly hanging in the balance, the Proteas are also just three successive wins away from winning their first piece of major silverware since 1998. 

And what of AB if we actually pull that off? 

The Proteas need their best players to stand up on Sunday, and they don't get any better than AB de Villiers. 

The way for him to answer his critics is to deliver the type of knock that only he can. 

Hopefully that swings some of the naysayers back on his side, because right now it feels like there are more people who would rather see him fail. 

And if you are one of those, it probably says more about you than it does him. 

Follow Sport24 journalist @LloydBurnard on Twitter ...

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