London - AB de Villiers has broken his silence since the media storm that erupted during the 2019 Cricket World Cup when it was alleged he had made himself available for selection just 24 hours prior to the announcement of the 15-man Proteas squad for the tournament.
De Villiers had retired from international cricket in May last year, but it was reported that he had a late change of heart and wanted to be included in the World Cup squad.
On Friday morning, however, De Villiers released a statement in which he laid out his side of the story:
"Now the Proteas' World Cup campaign is over, and the team cannot be distracted, I would like to respond to unjustified criticism of me during the tournament," the statement read.
"I continue to be asked to comment on the disclosure, and distortion, of a private conversation that took place just before the squad was announced and, for the benefit of anyone who may have felt let down, would like to explain what happened.
"First, I announced my retirement from international cricket in May 2018 because I wanted to reduce my workload and spend more time with my wife and young sons. Some have insisted I was motivated purely by money. They are wrong. In truth, I have turned down many lucrative offers to play around the world, and have cut the time spent away from home each year from eight months to just over three months.
"Second, on the day of my announcement, I was privately asked whether 'the door was still open' for me to play in the World Cup. I was asked. I did not offer. I quickly replied 'Yes'. With hindsight, maybe I should have just said no, but my natural instinct has always been to find a way to oblige whenever possible.
"During the weeks and months that followed, there was no formal contact between Cricket South Africa or the Proteas and me. I didn’t call them, and they didn’t call me. I had made my decision and the Proteas moved on, enjoying success under the expert guidance of coach Ottis Gibson and the outstanding captaincy of Faf du Plessis. Faf and I have been friends since we were at school together and, two days before the World Cup squad was announced, I contacted him for a chat.
"I had been in decent form during the Indian Premier League and casually repeated what I had said when asked a year earlier, that I was available if required... but only if required. I made absolutely no demands at all.
"I certainly did not try to force my way into the World Cup squad on the eve of the tournament, and did not expect to be included. There was no burning issue from my side, and no sense of injustice.
"Then, out of the blue, on the evening after the Proteas lost to India, suffering a third successive World Cup defeat, elements of our private conversation were disclosed to the media, and distorted to cast me in the worst possible light.
"The story was not leaked by me, or anybody associated with me, or by Faf. Maybe someone wanted to deflect criticism. I don’t know.
"As a result, I was unfairly described as arrogant, selfish and indecisive but, with all humility, my conscience is clear. I retired for honest reasons and, when asked if I could be available for the World Cup, agreed to keep the door open.
"In the event, understandably, the team moved on. No problem. I am not angry with anybody. Now, at this stage of my life, I would like to continue spending time with my family and to play in selected T20 tournaments in SA and around the world.
"I have been massively proud to have played for, and indeed captain, my country on the cricket field. My relationships with the Proteas players remain as strong as ever, and I will always be available to support and assist the next generation.
"Lastly, in stating my side of this unpleasant and unnecessary saga, I want to stress my continuing support for the team and the game that has shaped my life and provided me with so many lasting friendships and incredible opportunities."