An open letter to Mr. 360

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AB de Villiers has the laurels and plaudits behind him. Why is he so desperate to preserve himself for the 2019 World Cup? Does he need to jeopardise South-African cricket by absenting himself from Test matches?

AB de Villiers, a.k.a. Mr. 360, may be guilty of neglecting his roots even as everyone roots for him. | screengrab from Rainsfade DSTV promo

Dear AB,

It is 564 days since you last took the field in whites as I pen down this letter to my favourite cricketer of all-time. Did you watch the England–South Africa series, AB? Of course, you did. My Twitter feed was literally spammed with your motivational tweets to your teammates right through the four-match Test series.

I must say that, as a fan and an ardent follower right from the time you made baby steps in International cricket, I was disappointed. Immensely.

Like most of your fans from across the globe, I want to watch you play every match that South Africa plays, whatever the format be. But of course, as you stated a few months back, “priorities have changed”.

I can understand.

You have a young family and earning for them and spending time with them is at the apex of your priority list, as is the 2019 World Cup about which you have spoken a zillion times.

Two years back, when you broke down at Eden Park as Grant Elliott slammed Dale Steyn over the boundary line, I cried with you, empathized and sympathised with you. But as has been the case for South Africa in most World Cups, eventually you move on and take heart from bilateral wins and build renewed hope as another ICC tournament gets underway. This has been a cycle ever since your country regained admission after apartheid.

Like many, I truly believed that the 2015 World Cup squad was capable of crossing the final hurdle. When David Miller and you thrashed the Kiwi bowlers in those final moments and rain interrupted, I cursed. I cursed the fate of your countrymen. To date, I still believe that, had rain stayed away that day, you would have made it to the finals.

But I have moved on. Have you? I strongly suspect the answer is a NO.

You have spoken in-depth about how the 2019 World Cup is all you are playing for at the moment. Your self-enforced sabbatical from Test cricket is to prolong your limited-overs career and to enter 2019 World Cup with a “bang all" mindset.

I can understand.

But is a World Cup the ultimate goal for a cricketer of your calibre and value? So many greats of the game — Brian Lara, Rahul Dravid and Jacques Kallis — do not have World Cups. Does that take them to the last pages of a book on legendary cricketers? Surely, you know Barry Richards. He is your countryman, who was born in the wrong country at the wrong time. He never got to play more than four Tests despite being widely acknowledged as the World's best at the time.

You are lucky, AB. The world has seen you in your true form, wielding your willow like a magic wand.


You know who is unlucky?

The younger generation of South Africa's Test team, the Bavumas and de Kocks. They are young, immature to an extent and need guidance. Where have you gone, AB?

At 33, you are young enough to enjoy the prime of your career. The younger generation deserves a pick at your brain. You are blessed with something most yearn for — representing your country. It disappoints me to see you dictate terms to the team. There is a famous quote that goes 'No one is bigger than the team’. It's true. You might be South Africa's golden son but if you choose to step aside, you are more at a loss than the team.

Remember the press conference you gave a few months back? I shall remind you.

“I made myself unavailable for the New Zealand series, but to add to that is also the England series and the Bangladesh series after that. I am hoping to make a comeback with the Titans towards the end of the year in preparation for the series against India and against Australia. That's the plan. I am not committing to it but I am hoping to make a comeback there in Test cricket.”

Thus went your words. Now sit back, lean against that cosy couch and analyse your words. Ponder over them. Deeply.

After a disastrous Indian tour, South Africa were languishing at no.7 in the Test rankings and the England tour that concluded last week was meant to be the biggest series for South Africa this year. What made you sit that one out?


The final line haunts me more. “I am not committing to it but I am hoping to make a comeback there in Test cricket.”


What is that, AB? Do you expect the team to be ready to welcome you anytime your mind feels at ease to represent them? Do you expect your replacement player to step aside for a series just because you have returned to the fold?

How unfair is that!

Take a moment to think of that young player. Probably a Theunis de Bruyn or a Temba Bavuma or an Aiden Markram. They fight it out in the nets, play to their full potential, do all the hard yards, yet aren't certain to play, with the decision of their inclusion in the playing XI ultimately resting on your whims and fantasies.

Are you comfortable with that or haven't you given it a thought?

Jonty Rhodes, Graeme Smith and even your childhood mate and team captain, Faf du Plessis, have revealed that you weren't too keen to continue in Tests for some time now. If that is the case, why have you allowed the CSA to alter your mindset? Don't you think the public, atleast in your country, who have enjoyed your majestic skills and lauded them, deserve better treatment from you?

If your ultimate goal is the World Cup, so be it. But do retire from Test cricket or pad up and get out there into the middle. Keeping things hanging isn't the right way forward for you or the team. Even your schoolmate and long-time friend, Faf du Plessis, deserves better from you. For years, he has lived in your shadow and finally, as a shrewd skipper, he is stepping into his own. Don't you think he deserves better? If you can't make yourself available for him in future, at least let him know now, so he can plan ahead.

I understand that you are due to meet CSA this month to discuss your future. When you do, please make sure that you blurt out a final answer. Yes or a No.

South-African cricket has suffered enough with political issues over the years. They have seen the choker tag placed on them, rather unfairly. After all this, they do not need a superstar like you being grumpy and dictating terms. Step out or step in.

The final decision is yours to make. But remember that whatever you choose could be a template you set for future generations to follow. You could remain a hero or be a legend. The ball is in your court.

From a vehement fan

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