Johannesburg – New South Africa captain AB de Villiers confirmed Wednesday there is “a bit of truth” in rumours he is considering retirement but said he is fully committed to leading the team in the next two Tests against England.
De Villiers said that despite the proliferation of big-money Twenty20 tournaments, he still considers international cricket — and Tests in particular — to be the pinnacle of the game.
Speaking ahead of the third Test against England, starting at the Wanderers Stadium on Thursday, he said “one or two things” needed to change if that was to remain the main focus of players.
De Villiers, 31, admitted: “For two or three years I’ve been searching for the right answers to play a little less cricket in one way or another, to keep myself fresh and enjoying the game.
“Every now and then I find I am not enjoying myself as much as I should be. I’ve been talking to a few people and obviously that’s leaked.”
It was the first time De Villiers has spoken directly to journalists since an article appeared in a local newspaper claiming he was thinking of quitting.
“I’m still very committed to the job,” he said. “The two Test matches now is all that I am focusing on. There’s a nice big break of six months before we play Test cricket again. Lots of things can happen before then.”
De Villiers acknowledged that Twenty20 tournaments around the world were tempting, saying: “There are big tournaments going on around the world and some of them you can’t ignore because financially they make a huge difference in our lives.
“I think it’s a going concern for the ICC (International Cricket Council) to find the right sort of structure to keep all the guys fresh. International cricket is the main cricket you want to play, especially Test cricket.”
Told of De Villiers’ comments, England captain Alastair Cook insisted Test cricket needed to be protected.
“It is the ultimate test of a cricketer, you really earn your stripes if you do well over a long period of time,” he said.
Cook said Twenty20 had become more popular than could have been predicted 10 or 15 years ago, adding: “We can’t stand still as a game. The people who run it have to know their responsibility and push it forward the best way they can.
“I don’t think Test cricket is going to die but there are certainly elements of it that can be improved in terms of the structure of when you play.”
– ‘Momentum shift’ –
De Villiers said the atmosphere in the South Africa camp remained “normal” following the resignation of Hashim Amla as captain after the second Test last week.
“I’m very excited but we’ve got a very stable team culture so not much has changed in the team set-up.”
He said being 1-0 down in the four-match series added to the pressure “to make a play” but said he looked forward to the challenge and said extra responsibility made him feel more motivated.
“The nice thing about captaincy is you are completed focused on the team. Your personal performance is put aside and that is a good thing, more often than not,” he said.
The new skipper said he felt there had been a momentum shift when South Africa fought back for a draw in the second Test in Cape Town.
“I’ve played enough series to know that a little momentum shift like that doesn’t just happen. It’s a big thing in a big series so it’s up to us to make sure that we maintain that kind of momentum.”
Cook said opening batsman Alex Hales was suffering from a stomach bug but he hoped he would be fit.
“We’re in a really good position and it’s an exciting time to play, on probably two result wickets in the next two games. We need to win one of them,” he said.
“We’ve played some good cricket on tour but we need to do a lot of good things to win the game and put South Africa under pressure.”