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Should AB de Villiers Return for the T20 World Cup?

AB de Villiers

With every week that draws closer to the T20 World Cup, the debate about whether or not AB de Villiers should be included in the Proteas squad becomes stronger. I love AB, but I have my doubts…

At first, when I heard Mark Boucher saying that he is all for an in-form AB at the World Cup, I felt excited and optimistic. I was excited that we had a cricket coach who was brave enough to call a great out of retirement (think Jake White and the 2007 Rugby World Cup). My mind was replaying every AB highlight that brought our nation so much joy and passion over the years.

The thought of seeing him in the green and gold once more sent shivers down my spine – and still does!

On the face of it, it’s a no-brainer: The most gifted batsman of his generation; one of the greatest batsmen ever to have graced a cricket field. He has the fastest 50 (16 balls), 100 (31 balls) and 150 (64 balls) in the history of ODI cricket. Let’s also not forget his stellar Test record.

Of all the mind-boggling batting records that AB de Villiers holds and has broken, none of them have come in an international T20. In 75 T20 international innings, he scored 1672 runs at an average of 26.12 (strike rate 135) with a highest score of 79, with 10 fifties. Not too bad, but not great, and certainly not good enough to justify him coming out of retirement and taking someone else’s place.

IPL AB is a different beast. In 142 innings, he has scored 4395 runs at 39.95, a whopping strike rate of 151, and a highest score of 133. IPL AB is a game shaker and a match-winner. But let’s not get confused when trying to justify his return to the national setup. 

Stats aside, what message will it send to players who are in-form? Players, who perform for the Proteas when they get their chance and are available for every game? Someone like Heinrich Klaasen, who has bided his time, put in the hard work, and shown that he has the skill and talent to win games in our middle order. He has been second choice for years, but he has stuck around and is finally getting the run in the side that he deserves – and his results have been excellent. Klaasen would almost certainly have to step aside to make space for AB. 

The Proteas have all of 5 T20 matches before the World Cup in October. Is that enough time for AB to prove his worth and cement his place in the side? Or are we better off continuing with the current crop of players and building their confidence by backing them to step up when it counts?

We find ourselves in a similar situation to England after the 2015 World Cup. They hit the reset button, backed their youngsters and weren’t afraid to fail first in order to succeed.

We have a strong group of youngsters who need international exposure in order to improve. They need to be thrown into the deep end. We might not win the T20 World Cup with our current squad – it would be an unreasonable expectation given what has happened in South African cricket over the last 18-24 months – but the lessons and experience for the young players will be invaluable. They will be better off for it ahead of the 2021 T20 World Cup in India. 

I believe that AB should go to the World Cup, but not as a player. He has heaps of experience and knowledge to share. He has been in almost every pressure situation you can think of. He has experienced the highs and lows of international cricket. Who better to call on for advice when you’re in a tough situation as a batter?

The value of an AB de Villiers as a mentor to our group of young and inexperienced players should not be overlooked. I believe that Bouch should look at it from a different perspective, and get the best out of AB the mentor. 

Calling on AB the player and failing (again) could look foolish. Calling on AB the mentor and succeeding? Genius.

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