Ever imagined the words AB de Villiers and retirement being used in the same sentence? It is difficult, right? No player takes up a sport with an aim to play forever. At some point, the end does arrive.
Maybe, it’s time for de Villiers, who has scored 8,074 runs in 106 Tests averaging 50.46, to make a brave call. The tremendous amount of cricket in a calendar year has taken a toll on his fitness.
He is 32 and sure is running out of time, but an important task is still not checked off his list – a World Cup win. The tournament is two years away and it will be a challenge for the South African to remain fit. In order to do so, he must cut down the number of matches he plays in a year.
Since he has been excelling in the shorter formats, giving up on the longest format looks feasible. He has always been a team man who wants to play every game for South Africa. Which is why it is understandable that retiring from Tests will not be an easy choice.
Here are the 5 reasons why de Villiers should retire from Tests.
#1 Injuries might wreck his World Cup plan
The international cricket schedule is incredibly punishing; it includes hours of training, media interactions and most importantly, it keeps the players away from home for almost 10 months in a year. With the amount of international cricket that players are expected to play these days, a player tends to get exhausted. With so much cricket in store in a year, the risk of sustaining injuries also increases.
de Villiers has barely missed a Test for South Africa in his decade-long career. However, his resistance was broken last year. He suffered an impingement syndrome injury in 2016, which has caused excruciating pain for the Proteas batsman in the left elbow. It is supposed to settle after it is taken care of but sadly in AB’s case, it has been still troubling him.
He sustained the elbow injury during the Caribbean Premier League 2016, following which he went on to miss Test series’ against Sri Lanka, Australia, and New Zealand.
The explosive batsman’s only aim, for now, is lifting the World Cup trophy for South Africa in 2019. There is still two years to go for the tournament and it is not wrong to assume that if de Villiers does not retire from Tests, the selectors will select him in the Test squad at some point in time, leaving him with no option but to play.
With a dodgy elbow, it is best for him to cut down his tough schedule in order to remain fresh in the World Cup.
#2 Able replacement captain found
de Villiers was given the limited-overs captaincy after Graeme Smith stepped down following South Africa’s exit from World Cup 2011. When Hashim Amla had succeeded Smith in Tests, de Villiers did not hesitate to express disappointment. He always wanted to lead his country in the whites and the dream did come true after Amla stepped down, hinting at wanting to concentrate on his batting.
However, de Villiers’ captaincy was not a highlight of his illustrious career. He led South Africa in just two games where he scored a mere 36 runs followed by three consecutive dismissals for a duck.
Like MS Dhoni, who knew that India would be in good hands under Virat Kohli’s leadership when he retired from Tests, de Villiers also has the luxury of knowing that South Africa have found the perfect successor in Faf du Plessis.
The new Test captain immediately produced positive results after he was made the stand-in captain during de Villiers’ absence.
#3 South Africa no longer depend on him
The numbers speak volumes about de Villiers’contribution to South African cricket in the past few years. He has arguably been their best batsman, be it in any format. He averages above 50 in both Tests and ODIs, however, ever since his elbow started worrying him, his performance has taken a dip. In the last two Test series he played, he averaged 30 (4 Tests vs England) and 36.85 (4 Tests vs India) – these numbers do not match his potential in Tests.
Despite his absence, South Africa have not only dominated at home but also away from the ‘Rainbow Nation’. The Proteas won Test series’ against Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Australia.
The side has discovered a new skipper, wicketkeeper and finally, there is a South African team that is ready to reach new heights sans their beloved AB.
Times have changed, the situation has changed, maybe it’s time to move on, AB!
#4 Focus on only ODI format
de Villiers has been South Africa’s wicketkeeper, captain, key batsman, best fielder and, at times, bowler too. He has done everything he could for his country. Despite that, his dream still remains a dream – South Africa are yet to lift the coveted ICC Cricket World Cup’s trophy.
The South African’s recent decisions have clearly given out the message that his only aim at present is to work towards the 2019 World Cup. No matter what, he wants to remain fit and available for the massive tournament and evidently, it’s his last attempt to help his team win the prestigious competition.
In order to keep free from injuries and have a clear mind, de Villiers must drop the longest format and just devote himself to 50 and 20-over game. “With 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,” a determined de Villiers said.
This will mean that he will be able to divide his time properly between his national commitments and his family. It will only help him clear his mind and start fresh every time he comes on the field.
#5 Entertain fans in T20 leagues
One could argue that considering de Villiers decision to cut down on cricket, he could choose to not play the T20 leagues like IPL and Caribbean League, instead of retiring from Tests.
For a player like de Villiers, who is easily one of the best T20 batsmen, giving up T20s this early in his career will be a loss to him and to the sport as well. Despite being an overseas player, he receives an incredible amount of love and respect wherever he plays.
At 32, there is anyway not much scope of Test cricket left in him. He might as well hang up his boots in that form instead of not playing in the T20 leagues around the world and entertaining the millions of fans.