ESPNcricinfo has learned that de Villiers informed CSA of his decision to give up the longest format late last year, but was instead offered a year out of the game in a bid to get him to reconsider. However, de Villiers is understood to contemplating Test retirement when he meets CSA officials following the appointment of a new coach in August, in an attempt to continue playing white-ball cricket for South Africa until the 2019 World Cup. CSA have declined to comment.
Before leaving the UK for a two-month break at home, de Villiers said he and CSA would “make a final decision about what happens for the next few years” when they meet in a few weeks’ time, and indicated that the appointment of the new coach would be key to his future. Incumbent Russell Domingo’s contract is up at the end of the current tour to England and several sources have confirmed he has not reapplied for the post despite the support of the players, including de Villiers.
But, insiders have revealed there is more on de Villiers’ mind than the question of who will take charge of the side. Those close to de Villiers say the batsman has wanted to retire from Test cricket since sustaining the elbow injury that kept him out of the New Zealand, Australia and Sri Lanka Tests last season.
In a column for The Independent Graeme Smith all but confirmed this information when he wrote: “It’s my belief that AB was looking to walk away from the Test game last year at some point, but has been encouraged to carry on by CSA. His personal prerogative is ensuring he does all he can to add as much longevity to his international career as possible, as well as taking in to account the harsh realities of touring such as the amount of travel involved, and the toll that takes on your body.
“AB has already made huge sacrifices for South African cricket, over such a long period of time, and with the next ICC World Cup just two years away, it’s likely that he is targeting that tournament as a swansong to his already illustrious career at the top level. What has AB de Villiers got to prove to anyone? He’s a star, and those players are often expected to be available all of the time no matter what the consequences might be personally.”
Smith’s advice to de Villiers is to “step away from the captaincy”, and concentrate on maintaining his energy levels for the World Cup. If anyone would know about such things, it’s Smith. He gave up the limited-overs captaincy after the 2011 World Cup, following nine years in charge in all formats but continued playing before an unexpected retirement in 2014.
Until yesterday, de Villiers had given no indication he was likely to take that course of action, insisting that he enjoyed leadership, but following South Africa’s defeat in the third T20 in Cardiff, he seemed to change his tune.
De Villiers said he would like to be part of the World Cup squad in “one way or another”, and hinted at a change in mood in South African cricket. “There are quite a few things that are changing in South African cricket at the moment, quite a few things we need to wait for. I don’t even think it’s in my hands what is going to happen,” de Villiers said.
Those changes include the introduction of a T20 league, to which de Villiers has committed to being a part – he is the marquee player for the Pretoria franchise. He also plays in the IPL and has previously had stints in the CPL. He admitted to being approached by the Big Bash in the past, but turned them down, because of the clash with the South African season. With a growing family, it remains to be seen how much de Villiers still wants to travel abroad, for T20 leagues or for South Africa.