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
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
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