AB de Villiers approached Proteas captain Faf du Plessis and coach Ottis Gibson the day before the SA squad was to be announced, where he offered to come out of retirement for the World Cup. Photo: PA Images
AB de Villiers has played in three Cricket World Cups. South Africa did not make the final in any of them.

AB de Villiers has played in four ICC Champions Trophy tournaments. South Africa did not make it to the final of any of those.

AB de Viliers has played in five ICC World T20 tournaments. South Africa did not make it to the final in those tournaments.

AB de Villiers has participated in the IPL for 12 years. He has played in two finals in that tournament with the Bangalore Royal Challengers, and lost both. De Villiers made no impact with the bat in either match.

The teams he’s played for in the Pakistan T20 League, the Bangladesh one and even the Mzansi Super League, did not make it to the respective finals in those competitions which were played in the last eight months.

AB de Villiers has been part of trophy winning Titans teams in South Africa, but there’s a strong argument and evidence, that his role or presence has not been central to those successes. Rather Henry Davids, Albie Morkel and Farhaan Behardien have been the major performers for what has been the most consistent franchise in SA. Heck, of late Aiden Markram has made a bigger impact in finals for the Titans than De Villiers ever did.

Measure De Villiers by his World Cup statistics and there’s little doubt about his prowess. He is South Africa’s highest run-scorer in World Cup matches, making those runs at an average of 63.52. But those runs didn’t help South Africa win a World Cup or even make it to a darn final.

And this is where his cult followers - in this country and in India - fall short every time. Yes, ‘Mr 360’ is an outrageous talent, capable of making you gasp with some of the stuff he tries and then pulls off. But he doesn’t win enough - not in the limited overs formats where he has gained superstardom.

Lebron James, Tiger Woods and De Villiers’ big sporting hero Roger Federer measure their success, not through stats - how far a golf ball is struck or how many fancy forehand winners are hit - they measure success, with championship rings, majors and Grand Slam titles.

De Villiers, in the limited overs formats, whether for franchise or country has none of those.

Which is what makes that whole ‘I can save the Proteas’ call to Faf du Plessis so damn galling.

De Villiers has been part of South African teams where he wasn’t necessarily the ‘main man'. In the 2007 and 2011 World Cups, the major responsibility rested on the shoulders of senior players like Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher, Shaun Pollock and Graeme Smith.

De Villiers was the ‘main man’ in Australia and New Zealand in 2015, and got South Africa to a position from which a World Cup final was in touching distance but he and the team missed that chance.

A lot of that had to do with matters beyond De Villiers’ control. And that interference from Cricket South Africa - almost unforgivable - has not left De Villiers. Some of the boyish innocence disappeared that night in Auckland and the emotional pain has not subsided.

That pain has however coalesced into a kind of bitter and confused lump that has seemingly changed De Villiers from the humble, shy young player, who only wanted to bat and entertain into a self-centred and arrogant individual, who, given the timing of that call to Du Plessis - despite the national selectors having done everything they could last summer to accommodate him - thinks the world owes him something.

De Villiers has flip-flopped too many times in the last two years about playing international cricket, for anyone, not just his teammates, the coaching staff or the national selectors to trust him. He is and has been a special player. But it’s not like his presence guarantees success. That much, we know already.


Sunday Independent

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