Proteas / 16 January 2020, 09:30am / Zaahier Adams
CAPE TOWN – Even when the Proteas are bracing themselves for a crucial third Test against England starting today at St George’s Park, they just can’t get away from talking about AB de Villiers.
The 35-year-old batsman may have retired in 2018 already, but his name continues to crop up at the most inopportune times.
De Villiers is currently playing in Australia in the Big Bash for the Brisbane Heat, but was quoted this week that there could be a sensational return to the Proteas for the ICC T20 World Cup later this year.
So, instead of Proteas captain Faf du Plessis focusing on the task ahead against the English, he was once again tasked with explaining how far the discussions with De Villiers have progressed.
“We spoke about it, and I was very keen to have him back. That was even before the new coaching staff was on board,” du Plessis said on the eve of the third Test.
“Then it was the process of what does the next year look like in terms of T20 cricket - how many games; where, when, what? And then trying to unfold that in a way that we can get him back. He’s keen to come do that, I don’t know when. I can’t give you that answer yet because that decision hasn’t been taken. But there would be a series we would like to get him back to play.”
Du Plessis, of course, won’t have De Villiers by his side in Port Elizabeth this week and will instead need to focus on how to stop arguably the biggest poster-boy in world cricket at the moment, Ben Stokes.
The series is evenly poised. We’re backing our boys to make it 2-1 by the end of this PE Test match. Who’s looking forward to Day 1 tomorrow? Catch all the live action on SuperSport 2, SABC 3 & Radio 2000. #ProteaFire#SAvENG 🇿🇦🔥🏏 pic.twitter.com/ZEyb2pTQkE
The maverick all-rounder has been sensational the past 12 months, which has been acknowledged by the ICC who awarded Stokes with the Sir Garfield Sobers award yesterday.
He was certainly instrumental in England levelling the series at Newlands over New Year and the Proteas will have to find a way to curb his attacking instincts.
“It was very well deserved,” said Du Plessis. “He’s had a fantastic season where he played big moments really well. That’s when you really want to judge cricketers, when it really matters, and that’s why he has been so successful over the last year.
He’s single-handedly won so many games for England.
“He plays a big role, whether his team does well or not. For us, he is a guy that we need to keep quiet because he’s that sort of player that takes the game away from you when he gets in. He’s also got a big tank. He bowls many overs and tries 150%.”
The Proteas have yet to settle on a final XI with Du Plessis indicating that Cape Cobras seamer Dane Paterson could be in line for a Test debut.
England, meanwhile, are more settled with the selectors only considering a replacement for the injured James Anderson.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (capt) Dean Elgar Pieter Malan Zubayr Hamza Rassie van der Dussen Quinton de Kock Vernon Philander Dwaine Pretorius/ Dane Paterson Keshav Maharaj Kagiso Rabada Anrich Nortje.
England: Joe Root (capt) Zak Crawley Dom Sibley Joe Denly Ben Stokes Ollie Pope Jos Buttler Sam Curran Dom Bess Stuart Broad Jofra Archer/Mark Wood/Chris Woakes