AB de Villiers’ autobiography hints at him specialising in the shorter formats, which would be a travesty for the Test team.
His autobiography, which gets released today, leaves a fair amount to the imagination and rarely strays into controversy. Fair enough for a player with plenty of cricket still ahead of him in his career.
What the book does do is give the reader an interesting and personal insight into his childhood and rugby-playing days at Affies, which graduates to a fascinating glimpse of what it’s like to earn a national call-up as a 21-year-old.
An exhaustive collection of superfluous match details throughout his career follows, but within that includes some interesting accounts of the so-called ‘clique’ involving Graeme Smith, Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis, his relationship with Smith throughout his captaincy tenure, and the future of Test matches, including his own future in this format.
It’s no secret that he’s been thinking about retiring from Tests. He’s hinted at it before, but he strengthens this sentiment in the book.
‘Leading players may well become increasingly specialised,’ he says, ‘with most playing only two formats because, with the increase in the volume of top-class cricket, including international series and various T20 leagues, it could become almost impossible for anybody to find either the time or the energy to play in all three.’
The devil in the detail is when he includes himself in this thought-process.
‘Make no mistake, I have enjoyed always feeling involved and jumping between formats over the past 12 years, but there will be an upside to increased specialisation; as future generations of players focus on one or two formats, so skill levels will rise and the quality of play will become better and better.’
There are as many as 13 more Tests to be played for the Proteas within the next year. Will that be the time he decides to call it a day, or will it be even sooner?
‘It’s easier to get the blood pumping for a T20 match played in front of 45 000 chanting spectators than it is to get going on the fifth morning of a Test when there are 450 people in the ground.’
He’s revered in India, and he understandably loves it. Domestic T20 tournaments such as the IPL and the CPL are becoming higher up on his ‘to do’ list these days. But if he plays all three formats he is going to burn out, and soon.
So which one should he skip? Unless he’s planning on playing in the next World Cup, I believe ODIs should be taking the backseat, not Tests.
At 32, he’s not young, but he’s not old either. There’s still plenty of red-ball cricket left in the tank, and despite South Africa’s recent series win over New Zealand, De Villiers is needed in that side more than ever. His quality, his experience and his influence are invaluable.
Of course he’s important in the 50-over game too, but the Proteas can blood some new talent into this format and battle on without him. Playing T20s allows him to play in the format he now cherishes the most, and playing Tests means he’s playing in the format his country needs him to play in the most. Surely a fair compromise for a player that’s clearly playing too much cricket at the moment.
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