SOUTHAMPTON – Proteas convenor Linda Zondi has “no regret” over his decision not to include AB de Villiers in South Africa's World Cup squad.
Reports emerged on Thursday morning that De Villiers had planned to come out of retirement on the eve of the Proteas World Cup squad announcement.
De Villiers retired from international cricket in 2018 - exactly one year before the World Cup - because he had “run of out of gas” and would focus on only playing in the T20 Leagues around the world going forward.
“I pleaded with AB de Villiers not to retire in 2018,” Zondi said in a CSA statement on Thursday. “He turned down the offer and said he was at peace with his decision to retire.”
Zondi went further into detail about the plan that was proposed for De Villiers to continue playing international cricket, culminating with the World Cup here in the United Kingdom, only to be rebuffed again.
“There was a perception that he was picking and choosing when to play - which was not true - I gave him the option to plan and monitor his season to get him to the World Cup fresh and in a good space,” Zondi added.
The only request Zondi had was that De Villiers make himself available for the home series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka last summer, but the former national captain chose instead to play in the Bangladesh and Pakistan T20 Leagues.
This effectively ruled De Villiers out of contention for World Cup selection as the Proteas had begun making alternative plans.
“AB left a big vacuum when he retired, we had a year to find players at franchise level to fill the gap. We had players who put in the hard work, who put up their hands and deserved to be given the opportunity to go to the World Cup. The decision was based on principle; we had to be fair to the team, the selection panel, our franchise system and players,” Zondi said.
“At no point in the year that he had retired did he make himself available for selection. It was no option when I received the news on the day of the squad announcement, our squad was finalised and confirmed. For Faf du Plessis and Ottis Gibson to share AB’s desire to be included in the squad on the day we announced our World Cup squad on April 18th was a shock to all of us.
“AB is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world, but above all else, we have to stay true to our morals and principles, there is no regret in the decision,” added Zondi.
South Africa won both the Pakistan and Sri Lanka series in De Villiers' absence, and also a previous away ODI series in Australia, but have since struggled at this World Cup where they have lost three matches in a row.