AB de Villiers reveals the extent of the disruption caused by replacing Kyle Abbott with Vernon Philander in the World Cup semi-final.
De Villiers revealed the anguish the selection issue caused in his autobiography, which was released today. It comes hot on the heels of Dale Steyn and Faf du Plessis’ remarks from their respective press conferences after the New Zealand series win.
While De Villiers didn’t reveal anything about the apparent SMS that was sent from Haroon Lorgat to coach Russell Domingo on the eve of their World Cup semi-final defeat to New Zealand, what is crystal clear is that the decision to replace Abbott with Philander caused a stir throughout the whole side, highlighted by Steyn.
‘We didn’t know what we wanted to achieve, what we were playing for. We didn’t know why we wanted to win games. We needed something to happen,’ said Steyn earlier in the week.
‘We had some really good discussions between ourselves. The guys took it on board. They were really mature. We’ve found our passion again,’ added stand-in skipper Du Plessis on the series win.
De Villiers, cagey at the best of times throughout his book, was far more candid on the whole issue, which stemmed from the fact the side was generally supposed to aim towards fielding four players of colour.
‘None of us within the squad was counting,’ De Villiers said. ‘I sincerely believe we were genuine new South Africans, blind to race and colour. As far as I was concerned, it was just the strongest possible team representing our country.’
Philander, battling with an injury niggle leading up to the match, was expected to sit out as Abbott was in excellent form.
‘It was generally assumed the same team would be named to play in the semifinal,’ De Villiers writes. ‘That was my expectation as captain, until I was called to a meeting at 5.30 on the evening before the match, half an hour before our usual team meeting was due to start, and was told Vernon Philander, who had passed his fitness test a few days earlier, would play instead of Kyle Abbott.’
‘So what had happened? Had Vernon, who was officially classified as coloured, been selected ahead of Kyle, who was officially classified as white, to ensure there were four players of colour in our team for the semifinal? Or had the decision been made for purely cricketing reasons?’
It’s clear that, to this day, there remains some confusion and bitterness towards the whole issue.
‘It depressed me to even think of my teammates in these outdated racial terms, as white or coloured.
‘Would anyone really mind if there were three or four players of colour in the side?’
‘My mind was churning but, as the players gathered for the meeting, I had to keep everything together.’
‘I returned to my room and ordered room service with my wife, Danielle, but could not stop thinking about the selection issue. I needed to get my head around everything but I was emotional and, so far as I could see, the entire situation seemed so unnecessary and unfair on everybody.’
‘I didn’t sleep well that night and remember my first thought when I opened my eyes the following morning was “I hope Vern will be OK”.
‘I didn’t know for certain what had happened. Even today, I still don’t know for certain what happened. I didn’t want to blame anyone. I wanted to treat the issue as just another obstacle to overcome. We had to deal with it.’