AB de Villiers has decided not to play in the Test series in England in July, and may not feature in the following home series against Bangladesh and India this year.
The star batsman had already declared he was not available for the forthcoming Test matches in New Zealand, saying that he had to get himself in the right frame of mind for a Test comeback after sitting on the sidelines with a shoulder injury since August.
‘I’m hoping to return to some four day cricket at the end of the year for Titans and earn my spot in the Proteas back,’ he said in a press conference. He confirmed that he would play the IPL, but declared he would not play Big Bash, County Cricket or Caribbean Premier League. ‘There is a lot of cricket required of modern players, but my decisions are more about me and my situation and how my life has changed. My priorities have changed. Playing three formats it felt like the world is on my shoulder.’
Speculation was rife about his Test future ever since the Proteas coach Russell Domingo said management would be sitting with the batsman to determine what he wanted to play. He subsequently announced that he was not retiring from Test matches but that his focus was on managing his workload until the World Cup in 2019. He now says that he will target a return to Tests in 2018.
When emphasising that he would not be retiring from Test cricket, he said: ‘It’s important to play the other formats but mentally and physically I need to be in a good space come the 2019 World Cup and that’s what I am aiming for,’ he said. ‘I know its still a long way away and it’s all about managing that really well in order for me to get there.
‘I am going to have to make certain choices. The schedules these days … it’s really tough to play all formats, especially at the age of 32, when most cricketers don’t go past the age of 35. If you do the math, it takes to me to 2019, 2020 at the most. Hopefully by then I will still be fit and be there to lift the trophy with the boys.’
The CEO of Cricket South Africa, Haroon Lorgat, said in response that it was up to De Villiers to decide when he would return to Test cricket.
‘It’s just a case of when he starts or when he returns,’ Lorgat said. ‘Because once he starts, there’s no stopping and no time off. When you play, you play continuously. So he’s not picking and choosing. These are deliberate discussions that we’re having and which will continue.
‘ODI cricket is the focus because he’s the captain. Test cricket is different. We’ve got a settled team, we’ve got the resources to go through. If he was not the captain of the ODI team it might have been different. Same with T20s – we’ve got enough talent there and he’s not leading the side. But with respect to ODIs, he will play every ODI because he’s the captain.’