South Africa opted against AB de Villiers recall for Cricket World Cup

This article is more than 1 year old
Former captain offered to reverse international retirement
Zondi: ‘We have to stay true to our morals and principles’
AB De Villiers offered to return to the South Africa team before the tournament
AB De Villiers offered to return to the South Africa team before the tournament. Photograph: Paul Harding/PA

South Africa decided against including AB de Villiers in their World Cup squad after revealing the star batsman offered to reverse his international retirement in April.

The former South Africa captain said he had “run out of gas” last year when deciding to end a highly successful international career consisting of 114 Test matches, 228 ODIs and 78 Twenty20s.

However, a day after the Proteas crashed to their third successive World Cup defeat, Cricket South Africa confirmed De Villiers had approached the board around the time the preliminary squad was announced.

De Villiers had the backing of the coach, Ottis Gibson, and captain, Faf Du Plessis, but the convener of selectors, Linda Zondi, felt including the 35-year-old would have been unfair to those who had stepped into the breach.

In a statement Zondi said: “I pleaded with AB De Villiers not to retire in 2018.

“Although there was a perception that he was picking and choosing when to play – which was not true – I did give him the option to plan and monitor his season to get him to the World Cup fresh and in a good space.

“We made it clear that he would have to play during the home tours against Sri Lanka and Pakistan to be considered for selection. Instead he signed to play in the Pakistan and Bangladesh Premier Leagues respectively. He turned down the offer and said he was at peace with his decision to retire.

“For Faf Du Plessis and Ottis Gibson to share AB’s desire to be included in the squad on the day we announced our World Cup squad on 18 April was a shock to all of us.

“AB left a big vacuum when he retired. We had a year to find players at franchise level to fill the gap. We had players who put in the hard work, who put up their hands and deserved to be given the opportunity to go to the World Cup.

“The decision was based on principle; we had to be fair to the team, the selection panel, our franchise system and players.

“At no point in the year that he had retired did he make himself available for selection. It was no option when I received the news on the day of the squad announcement, our squad was finalised and confirmed.

Quick guide

South Africa Cricket World Cup 2019

South Africa

ICC world ranking 3 (as of 6 May)

Captain Faf du Plessis

Coach Ottis Gibson

World Cup best Semi-finals 1992, 1999, 2007, 2015

Fixtures (10.30am unless stated)

30 May v England, The Oval

2 June v Bangladesh, The Oval

5 June v India, Southampton

10 June v West Indies, Southampton

15 June v Afghanistan, Cardiff

19 June v New Zealand, Edgbaston

23 June v Pakistan, Lord’s

28 June v Sri Lanka, The Riverside

6 July v Australia, Old Trafford

Photograph: Christopher Lee-IDI/ICC

“AB is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world but above all else we have to stay true to our morals and principles. There is no regret in the decision.”

De Villiers has amassed 9,577 runs in ODIs at an average of 53.5 and would undoubtedly bolster a batting line-up that has struggled in England and Wales, with Quinton De Kock’s 68 against England their top score so far.

He wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning: “All that’s important is that we should all focus on supporting the team at the World Cup. There is a long way to go and I believe the boys can still go all the way.”

Quick guide

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Photograph: Chesnot/Getty Images Europe