Proteas

CWC rumpus: AB’s deft sidestep

2016-09-01 12:40
AB de Villiers (Getty Images)

Cape Town – The one thing the swollen fan club of AB de Villiers can probably rest assured over is this: he is still safe in the Proteas’ environment for a reasonably long haul.

His just-launched book AB: The Autobiography (Pan Macmillan) stops well short of opening up a genuine can of worms over the subject almost every enthusiast will be most curious about – what really happened behind the scenes in the lead-up to South Africa’s gut-wrenching exit from the 2015 World Cup at the hands of New Zealand.

Significantly placed very deep in the book (Chapter 14 of 15 … The Dream) the captain describes his suspicion that “other considerations” played a role in the selection of the XI that took to the field, with Vernon Philander a late call-up in place of Kyle Abbott despite lingering fears over the former’s fitness following injury.

That glorious hedging of bets, amidst a sea of other gingerly-chosen words on the subject, simply bears out what most observers have long felt was blindingly obvious: there was “political” tumult aplenty within the Cricket South Africa senior administrative hierarchy as the hours ticked down to the key contest.

He dodges the red-letter question repeatedly asked by media, past players and public in the wake of another jinx-extending departure toward the business end of an ICC global tournament for the Proteas: who, ultimately, forbade the retention en masse of the team which had powered through the quarter-final against Sri Lanka by insisting on the hasty restoration of Philander to ensure a more desirable fourth player of colour in the semi?

Speculation was rife in the days immediately following the defeat by four wickets with one ball remaining in Auckland, with chief executive Haroon Lorgat almost inevitably coming under scrutiny after reports – later denied by CSA – that he sent a text message in the early hours of that match-day to coach Russell Domingo instructing him to install an additional player of colour.

There have also been whispers, however, that Lorgat was placed under intolerable pressure -- whatever his own convictions were on selection at the time -- by others within the CSA leadership structures.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula similarly denied applying pressure, describing media reports over the controversy as “acts of desperate colonial apartheid apologists”.

De Villiers barely puts a toe in the water on that particular “whodunit?” score, despite being the first central personality thought to be properly “in the know” about the Philander-Abbott distraction, as the team braced for the semi-final, to write a book subsequently.

What he does do, just a little more adventurously, is effectively confirm the impact on himself and his co-cricketers.

He says he had a poor night’s sleep ahead of the date with the home-based Black Caps – hardly ideal, for such a precious stroke-player in the SA ranks – and regarded the unexpected curveball as “unnecessary and unfair on everybody”.

Further, in a statement that readers of more cynical disposition may find of dubious truth when placed in a bigger-picture context, the bums-on-seats maestro blames the last-ditch loss more on lapses in the field (which undoubtedly played a role): “We didn’t lose because of the decision to replace Kyle with Vernon.”

That alone will have gone down with relief and a willing rubber stamp from the CSA politburo, you can be sure.

The book is largely straight-bat stuff, focussing much more heavily on orthodox cricketing reflections and observations, and leaving boardroom hot potatoes firmly in cold storage.

Don’t expect too many reverse paddles; perhaps we’ll only get those upon his retirement from the national cause (there is lingering, inevitable angst that he may, sooner rather than later, exclusively join the globe-trotting T20 hired-gun ranks) and a spiritedly “updated” autobiography.

De Villiers, for the moment, keeps such cheeky strokes for the middle, and as long as he is still willing – and able – to execute them in Proteas whites and greens, at least that’s some sort of agreeable result for South African cricket fans.

Unlike De Villiers’s blistering batting, this book is only moderately exciting.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  ab de villiers  |  cricket
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