AB de Villiers’ retirement from international cricket in May of 2018 came as a bit of a shock for everyone. The dynamic batsman would have been an integral part of South Africa’s plans for the 2019 World Cup, and the decision to call time meant that captain Faf du Plessis would be without one of his biggest match-winners for the ICC tournament. As it turned out, de Villiers’ absence was a huge void which SA failed to fill as they finished seventh on the points-table and were the second team after Afghanistan to be eliminated from the competition.
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Du Plessis and de Villiers go way back, to their Under 16 days in 1998, when the two shared a hostel room together. Perhaps that is the reason why when de Villiers decided to end his international career, his friend du Plessis never forced him not to, even though he was tempted to do so.
“When AB left, it was really tough for me, because I depended a lot on him, as a friend, and obviously as the best player in the team; we needed his skills,” du Plessis told R Ashwin on the off-spinner’s YouTube channel.
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“So that conversation was… when he said that to me, said he was done, he was finished with international cricket, as a friend, my first instinct was, ‘I’m here for you, and I’ll support you, if you feel like you’re at the end of your career and you don’t want to do it anymore, then that’s okay – I support that decision 100 per cent’”.
Controversy erupted in the middle of last year’s World Cup when it was revealed that de Villiers made one last-ditch effort to come out of retirement but South Africa’s team management, along with captain du Plessis and head coach Ottis Gibson had turned it down because they felt it would be unfair on those who had worked hard to make it to SA’s World Cup squad. However, at the time of retirement, du Plessis revealed that he wanted de Villiers to carry on, but the friend in him overshadowed his role as captain.
“As a captain, I was like – ‘how do we move forward without AB, how do we get the same performances?’ But the friend in me trumped the captain in me. And I just said, ‘We’re going to miss you, are you sure?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, I am 100 per cent sure, I don’t want to play international cricket anymore. I don’t have the drive to do it anymore. So I am stopping’,” du Plessis said.
“I respected that immediately and left it there. I never ever after that tried to convince him again, because I respected what he said. Even at times when we desperately needed him.”