Proteas

AB opens up on CWC selection controversy

2016-09-01 10:01
AB de Villiers (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - AB de Villiers has opened up, somewhat, on the controversial selection issue that has haunted the Proteas ever since their 2015 Cricket World Cup semi-final exit to New Zealand. 

Vernon Philander had recovered from a hamstring strain and was rushed back into the starting XI for that match, with Kyle Abbott dropping out. 

Reports that followed suggested that the decision was made by Proteas management in an attempt to reach transformation targets, but there has been very little official comment on the matter from anybody at Cricket South Africa (CSA) since. 

Now, De Villiers has spoken about the issue in his new book, AB: The Autobiography. 

De Villiers, who was captain of the Proteas at the tournament, discusses the semi-final in chapter 14 of the book, entitled 'The Dream'. 

De Villiers said he had expected to go into the semi-final with the same starting XI that had beaten Sri Lanka in the quarter-finals, but that he was told at 17:30 the night before the semi-final that Philander would play. 

"None of us within the squad was counting. I sincerely believe we were genuine new South Africans, blind to race and colour. As far as I was concerned, it was just the strongest possible team representing our country," De Villiers writes.

"It was generally assumed the same team would be named to play in the semifinal. That was my expectation as captain, until I was called to a meeting at 5.30 pm on the evening before the match, half an hour before our usual team meeting was due to start, and was told Vernon Philander, who had passed his fitness test a few days earlier, would play instead of Kyle Abbott."

De Villiers said he had suspected that Philander would return to the starting XI as soon as he recovered from his injury and that there was a feeling that he would thrive in New Zealand conditions, but he also felt that there could be "other considerations" in terms of selections.

"We had been assured that Cricket South Africa was the only national sporting governing body in the country that had declined to set a target for the number of players of colour to be included in the national team, but there was a delicate balance to be struck and it was generally understood that, as they chose the side, the national selectors would be conscious of working towards providing opportunities for at least four players of colour," De Villiers continued.

"So what had happened? Had Vernon, who was officially classified as coloured, been selected ahead of Kyle, who was classified as white, to ensure there were four players of colour in our team for the semifinal? Or had the decision been made for purely cricketing reasons? 

"It depressed me even to think of my teammates in these outdated racial terms, as white or coloured, but three players of colour had played in the quarterfinal, so could three players of colour play in the semifinal, or was that not the case?"

De Villiers goes on to say that the semi-final loss to the Kiwis was not down to selection, but rather down to five key moments on the field of play. 

AB: The Autobiography by AB de Villiers is published by Pan Macmillan and available from leading retailers at an RRP of R350.

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