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AB must not lead Test side

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AB de Villiers is very important as a batsman to the Proteas side.

The changes to England’s Test captaincy on Wednesday – almost expected now when South Africa tours here – may be the cause for some mirth back home, but it put the spotlight on the ‘cricket mortality’ of Graeme Smith.

In an interview with IOL last week, South Africa’s coach Gary Kirsten hoped/believed that Graeme Smith may continue as Test captain for the foreseeable future. Kirsten reckoned Smith had been re-energised in the job and was doing it better than at any point in his nine-year career. Still, all good things must come to an end as Andrew Strauss – victorious in two Ashes campaigns – showed on Wednesday.

Smith has talked about wanting to just be an ‘ordinary’ senior player, but given the success he’s had on this trip he may be reconsidering that stance.

AB de Villiers has been earmarked to take over as future Test captain, but there’s still lots of talks that need to take place behind the scenes before that eventually happens. De Villiers, not surprisingly has expressed his enthusiasm for the captaincy position in the limited overs formats and all the other responsibilities he is shouldering.

Many already think it unfair that he should have the keeping duties alongside his batting in the one-day format, but he has shown since taking over as captain that he can carry the load on all three fronts. It is early days yet – De Villiers has only led in two series’ before this one with England – and it would probably be better to judge him at the conclusion of the next South African season when he would have had series’ against New Zealand and Pakistan.

The Test situation is a different matter all together. De Villiers really shouldn’t be burdened with batting, keeping and captaining in the five-day format – that would be, even for one as enthusiastic and willing as De Villiers, too much to bear. Immediately there’ll be those who’ll point to Mahendra Singh Dhoni as an example of someone who has done all three, but it must be remembered De Villiers is far more important to South Africa as a batsman than Dhoni is to India in that role.

Kirsten says the balance of the side with two all-rounders in the top five is a major strength so De Villiers will remain as keeper for the three Tests in Australia. That position will be reassessed for the home tours in the summer. It may not be the overwhelming reason at this stage, but Smith may need to continue as Test captain for the foreseeable future while the search continues for a long-term replacement for Mark Boucher in the five-day format.

De Villiers is too important a batsman for it to be him. – The Star


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