AB de Villiers’ statement to clear the air over controversial World Cup allegations may serve as a reminder about the perils of jumping to conclusions, but there are still questions to be answered, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
There was always going to be more to this story. There undoubtedly is still more to come, or that may be left untold.
First, though, let’s just rewind a bit.
Back in June, news broke that De Villiers had apparently made a last-ditch attempt to join the 15-man World Cup squad, a request seemingly turned down by captain Faf du Plessis, coach Ottis Gibson and Cricket South Africa.
To be fair, right from the outset, this story had a stink to it (for lack of a better word).
It really didn’t make much sense. De Villiers had retired in May 2018. If he had rekindled a desire to complete a U-turn and make himself available for World Cup selection, surely he wouldn’t have done so at the 11th hour?
According to a statement De Villiers released on Friday, this is actually what transpired:
‘Faf and I have been friends since we were at school together and, two days before the World Cup squad was announced, I contacted him for a chat.
‘I had been in decent form during the Indian Premier League and casually repeated what I had said when asked a year earlier, that I was available if required… but only if required. I made absolutely no demands at all.
‘I certainly did not try to force my way into the World Cup squad on the eve of the tournament, and did not expect to be included. There was no burning issue from my side, and no sense of injustice.’
That’s fair enough, but it doesn’t clear up all the questions.
Who was the role player who asked De Villiers – back when he retired – if ‘the door was still open’ for him to play in the World Cup?
Why would that carrot be dangled to at least some degree, if it was never going to be taken further?
And if De Villiers did indeed suggest he would be willing to consider making himself available down the line, why was there not more of an effort made to regain the services of one of South Africa’s all-time great batsman well before the World Cup?
Perhaps the Proteas had moved on. De Villiers suggests he had too, and in hindsight, probably regrets even raising the subject again when in conversation with Du Plessis just prior to the World Cup squad announcement.
But let’s also pause for a moment, and reflect on the comments former Proteas coach Ray Jennings made in the midst of the backlash that followed once reports had come to light surrounding the AB saga, and after the Proteas had endured a horror start to their World Cup campaign.
Jennings was one of the few who came to De Villiers’ defence: ‘AB is the most sincere person, definitely not selfish as a player,’ he said. ‘I’d put my life on the line to say that it’s rubbish that he would wait until 24 hours before the team announcement to make himself available. It’s nonsense.
‘I just know him too well to believe he’ll do something like this. There is another story behind the scenes that need to be told.’
Well, those words ring rather prophetic right now.
That’s not to suggest De Villiers is blameless. Perhaps more could have been done to continue negotiations around reducing his international workload, while also making it clear to all parties that a fire of desire to contribute at the World Cup would never be completely extinguished.
Unfortunately, there was mismanagement – from all sides – ever since De Villiers made his shock retirement announcement last year.
Ever since then, people have jumped to conclusions and judgements, while many have also delivered stinging personal criticisms, without having all the facts.
We probably still don’t have all the facts, and perhaps never will, but this entire saga has tainted the career and memory of a player who should really have been remembered solely for his one-of-a-kind feats on the field of play.
Not to mention being left with a whole host of ‘what ifs’ when wondering just how different things may have been if De Villiers had been able to contribute as a match-winner at the World Cup.
It’s all left a rather sour taste in the mouth, and there are more than just a hasty few who have been left with egg on their faces after De Villiers’ candid statement.
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