AB must hang up his glovesComment on this story
Cape Town - The move to have AB de Villiers keep wicket for South Africa was always going to end badly.
De Villiers is good enough to don the keeping gloves at international level. He is arguably even good enough to be a premier batsman, wicketkeeper and limited overs captain.
But the workload - over a sustained period of international cricket - was always going to catch up with a player who has a well-documented history of back troubles.
On Tuesday, on the eve of the three-match T20 series against New Zealand, De Villiers asked to be withdrawn in order to save himself for the three Tests which follow the T20s.
“It’s been an exhausting few months and I feel that I need some extra rest before the Test series,” De Villiers said. “It’s for this reason that I have put in the request and I’m grateful to the Proteas team management for supporting this decision.”
It is now likely that new selection Quinton de Kock will be tasked with manning the gloves in the T20s.
De Villiers had already stepped down as skipper for the T20 matches, as he was unlikely to play all three games, with Faf du Plessis set to take the reins.
De Villiers was shovelled into a stop-gap measure on the tour of England after the freak injury which forced the early retirement of Mark Boucher.
Thami Tsolekile was flown over as a direct replacement for Boucher but team management opted to use De Villiers instead - and the short-term decision was justified as the Proteas enjoyed a triumphant tour.
However, a decision was made to carry on with De Villiers for the tour Down Under - a decision which sparked some debate as De Villiers had been below par with the bat since donning the gloves.
It was only in the final and decisive Test in Perth that De Villiers showed his abilities with the bat as he scored a century to help South Africa to victory over Australia.
In the aftermath of that win, and his fine 169, De Villiers was quick on the draw to his critics, saying: “Obviously, there’s a bit of added pressure on me with the gloves in hand. It’s been coming for a while now. Can I score runs with the gloves? Luckily I did today.
“I honestly believe I don’t get as tired when I’m keeping,” he added.
“When you are in the field and running up and down, it’s really hard work and it can be mentally draining as well. When I’m keeping, I have 30 yards to run between overs and that’s it. I’ve got to expect the ball a bit more often but I love being in the game, it keeps me on my toes and I’m really loving having the gloves in hand.”
But De Villiers - and South Africa - are now paying a high price. As one of the leading batsmen across all three formats, South Africa can ill afford to have De Villiers continue to sit out matches/series in order to have a break.
Having only been appointed limited overs captain earlier this year, De Villiers has already been forced to surrender the captaincy reins for the T20 series against the Black Caps.
De Villiers is only 28 and already he is having to be managed in the mould of a Jacques Kallis. In the short-term it serves South Africa to have De Villiers double up as a gloveman as it frees up another slot in the line-up, but the cost is simply too high - both for the player and the country.