AB de Villiers has acknowledged Ben Stokes as a threat for the Champions Trophy and dismissed the notion of Test retirement.
Stokes became the most expensive foreign player in IPL history when the Rising Pune Supergiant snapped him up for INR 14.5 crores, or $2.16-million (R28.5-million) in February.
He proceeded to score 316 runs (one century and a half century) @ 31.60, coupled with 12 wickets @ 26.33 in a campaign which has seen his side reach the final.
De Villiers complimented Stokes’ ability, but did not shy away from the opportunity to highlight his fellow countrymen’s performances throughout the tournament.
‘Stokes is a fantastic cricketer, with both bat and ball,’ said De Villiers at Hove on Thursday.
‘He’s definitely got something special about him.
‘A lot of guys lose their way in the IPL, and others find the next level in their game. Ben Stokes definitely lifted his game and I think it would have done him the world of good.
‘But a few of our players who played over there lifted their game. I faced Imran Tahir in the nets and he’s certainly stepped his game up a bit, and come up with a few new deliveries, and so has everyone else who was there.’
De Villiers, who had an elbow operation last year, returned for South Africa’s ODI series against New Zealand in February-March and also played for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL.
But, despite showing signs of a full recovery, he has opted out of the four-match Test series against England, which takes place after the Champions Trophy.
‘It’s the decision for this year,’ he said.
‘The decision was to play a bit less. I’m feeling fresh and looking forward to playing a tournament.
‘I haven’t retired, no. But I’m not going to change my decision. I’ll look indecisive.’
The 33-year-old, who is the captain of the Proteas ODI side, expressed his desire to win the Champions Trophy, but assures that their first priority will be the ODI series in England.
‘I haven’t won one of these trophies in my career, so I’m pretty desperate to win one, and we’ll do anything we can to get out on top.
‘We know these tournaments are very competitive. There are eight teams that want to win it and can win it, but we think we’ve got a very good squad here. I’ve got a good feeling about this one.
‘But first things first, we want to win the series against England.’
The Proteas will play Sussex in a warm-up match on Friday, before finishing off with a match against Northamptonshire on Sunday.
Their three-match ODI series will start on 24 May, before they take on Sri Lanka in their opening Champions Trophy match on 3 June.
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