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South Africa turned down AB de Villiers' offer to return for the World Cup: reports
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South Africa turned down AB de Villiers' offer to return for the World Cup: reports

AB de Villiers had offered to come out of retirement from international cricket for the World Cup, but his request was rejected by the South Africa team management, according to a report in ESPNCricinfo.

The offer to rejoin the national side came about on the eve of the announcement of the final Proteas squad for the World Cup. 

It has been revealed that the former skipper had communicated his willingness to take back his permanent sabbatical from international cricket to South Africa’s captain Faf du Plessis, head coach Otis Gibson and convener of selectors Linda Zondi, just 24 hours before the 15-member squad was decided.

‘De Villiers’ selection was not considered’

The team management took a firm stance over de Villiers’ selection in the side owing to his prolonged absence from domestic cricket and international assignments.

The selectors reasoned that de Villiers’ preference for participating in T20 tournaments such as the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) did not allow him to fulfill the selection criteria.

The concerned authorities also felt de Villiers’ inclusion in the squad would come at the expense of more deserving players such Russie van der Dussen and others in whom Cricket South Africa (CSA) had been investing their time and resources.

CSA selection panel convener Zondi responded to the news, affirming these developments in a statement issued out to the public. He emphasized the decision “was based on principle” and upheld the values of fairness.

“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 left a big vacuum when he retired, we had a year to find players at franchise level to fill the gap," Zondi's statement read.

"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.

"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. 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."

Calls for De Villiers to return

South Africa’s shambolic start to their World Cup campaign further adds to the woes of the selectors and their decision to snub de Villiers from the squad will raise many eyebrows.

Du Plessis’ men have now lost all of their matches they have played thus far in the tournament, recently crashing to a six-wicket loss against India.

The gaping hole in their fragile middle order was exposed in the preceding losses to England at the Oval on May 30 and Bangladesh at the same venue three days later.

Amidst these challenging times for South Africa cricket, calls for de Villiers’ return to the team in a bid to add stability to the batting line-up gained traction.

A veteran of three World Cups for the Proteas, de Villiers possesses a stunning record in the showpiece events managing 1207 runs at an average of 63.52 with four centuries and six fifties to his name.

He amassed 9577 runs across 228 ODIs at a fabulous average of 53.50 and was recently in crisp form at the IPL where he racked up 443 runs at a strike rate of 154.

De Villiers capped off his illustrious career in international cricket last year, citing issues of fatigue and distance from family acting as the main motivators leading him to take this step.

Last month, the maverick batsman attracted some controversy after he compared the IPL with the World Cup, calling the former far superior in terms of quality and excitement.