AB de Villiers is one of the most effortless timers of a cricket ball the world has ever seen, but the former South African captain mistimed his retirement and subsequent efforts to return to the fold terribly, according to the Proteas coach, Ottis Gibson.
The day after their defeat to India, their third in succession at the 2019 World Cup, the Proteas camp was rocked by the revelation that De Villiers had made himself available for the World Cup. Gibson, speaking on Saturday at the Hampshire Bowl, where South Africa play the West Indies on Monday, said the offer came at the last minute, however.
“The players are disappointed with the timing of when it came out. We’d moved on, we’ve won every series we’ve played since AB retired and then we have one bad week and suddenly AB is our saviour. But he made his decision, we’ve had to live with it and he has to live with it too. I suspect people want him here a lot more than he wants to be here. If he really wanted to be here, he would be here.
“AB called me the evening before the squad was announced, I was in England and I believe he was in India. He asked me if there was any chance of coming back and I said I would have to speak to Cricket South Africa and to the chairman of selectors, but my immediate reaction was that he had left it too late. Which is what we all decided. He was told last year that if he wanted to play in the World Cup, he had to make himself available for the Pakistan and Sri Lanka series. I’m not sure who knew first that he wanted to come back, but I think he spoke to Faf at the IPL,” Gibson said.
The coach pointed to the amounts of times De Villiers had said he was happily retired and did not want to make an international comeback.
“It seemed a bit strange that he changed his mind the day before the squad was announced. The fact is he made his decision to retire and said continuously that he was happy with it. It was his decision and I can’t comment on how concrete it was or not. But I saw him in December at an Mzansi Super League game, he was at the toss and I had done an interview, and I asked him if he was finished with all this retirement nonsense. He said he was happy with his decision.
“That was the end of it as far as I was concerned. You should not have to beg someone to play for your country, I had told him previously that I thought it was a bad decision to retire because he could help us win the World Cup. He said he wanted to spend more time with his family. The door was open for him up to December, he knew that the games against Pakistan and Sri Lanka were vitally important and he made his choice,” Gibson said.