South Africa in England 2012 July 12, 2012

De Villiers ready for Boucher role

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AB de Villiers says he is "looking forward to the challenge" of combining his role as a batsman with succeeding Mark Boucher as South Africa's Test wicketkeeper, if he is handed the gloves as expected.

South Africa will begin their attempt to wrest the No. 1 ranking away from England at The Oval next Thursday in what is set to be an emotional first Test after Boucher's enforced retirement from international cricket due to an eye injury sustained whilst standing up to the stumps in a warm-up game at Somerset.

De Villiers has kept in only three of his 74 Tests but became South Africa's first-choice ODI wicketkeeper in 2010 and is now likely to get the job for the Test series against England as well. He will keep wicket in South Africa's three-day match at Kent, although the specialist Thami Tsolekile has also been added to the squad and a final decision is yet to be made.

The unexpected loss of the world's leading wicketkeeper, with a record 555 Test dismissals to his name, has undoubtedly affected South Africa. Boucher was such a part of the fabric of the team that Graeme Smith, South Africa's captain, had to be reminded of his absence during a practice session at Canterbury. However, de Villiers, who regarded Boucher as a mentor, believes that the team can draw strength from the situation.

"He will be in the back of our minds no matter what," de Villiers said. "In our keeping drills today, Smithy even called me Bouch at one stage, and I was like, 'it's me now.' He will be there in the back of our minds but it's more for inspiration as much as anything else. He'll take us a long way to winning this series. It's not a bad thing, as long as you don't get too emotional about it."

"He's been an idol in South African cricket for many years. He's been the rock, the guy with the guts. He's someone who was there when I started off my career, who looked after me, took me under his wing and helped me a lot in my cricket. I probably wouldn't be here without him - it's a big call but it's true.

"They're huge boots to fill, obviously, if not the best. I'm a little bit undercooked when it comes to Test wicketkeeping but I've had a lot of experience, in IPL, T20, ODIs for my country and my keeping has improved a lot over the last few years. It's something I'm looking forward to, if the gloves come my way, in the Test matches. It's something I'll take with both hands."

It could be quite a challenge, as de Villiers is also a key part of South Africa's batting line-up. Greats of the game such as Alec Stewart and Kumar Sangakkara have struggled to combine wicketkeeping duties with consistent runscoring - both averaging significantly less when taking on those extra duties - but de Villiers was sanguine about having to multitask, even suggesting that he might have an easier time of it than in his usual fielding position at point.

"In my experience, I rest a bit more when I keep, I really do," he said. "The only thing I have to look after is my back - that takes quite a bit of stress when I'm keeping. But you don't run a lot as a wicketkeeper. I'm at point and, during a big partnership, I'm running all over that field and I'm really tired after. If anything I might rest a little bit more. I don't think it will influence my batting, maybe I'll go through a bad patch, maybe I'll do even better."

"The captain and coach will have to sit down and take a proper call. I'm keeping in the three-day game, I'm preparing like I'm going to take the gloves in the first Test match and obviously I'm going to prepare like I'm going to bat at five as well. It's not a massive tweak; it's the way you've got to adapt at this level."

While South Africa may worry about increasing the burden on their No. 5, who is ranked the third best Test batsman in the world, de Villiers' record as a keeper in ODIs is worth noting. In 37 matches he has averaged an astonishing 80.36 - scoring eight of his 13 hundreds - compared to 38.81 when playing solely as a batsman. He also seems to thrive when taking on added responsibility, having assumed the ODI captaincy earlier this year while continuing to pile on runs.

Although he described Boucher's injury as a "freakish accident," de Villiers will wear a helmet to stand up to stumps. "I always do," he said. He is not about to change after the horrors of the past week.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • teo. on July 13, 2012, 12:35 GMT

    SA have always had the fighting spirit, and Bouch was just the embodiment of that character. Believe me, the whole team, none more so than AB also possess this. With Duminy @ 7, SA will have 4 specialists bowlers, + Kallis's seam + Duminy's offspin... BOTH have been called "golden arms" i.e. The habit of breaking big partnerships or taking crucial unexpected wickets.... I can only hope... :) So, I dont think a 5th specialist bowler is necessary.

  • zapeta on July 13, 2012, 12:14 GMT

    It's a very option for SA. its really great to see a senior playerr like him ready to do the job that most Wicket keepers left. AB wants to be an allrounder and create a place for allrounder in the Team. AB we love your decision, you are capable keeper and future Captain. we wish to watch you behind the stumps in all formats.

  • DJ432554 on July 13, 2012, 9:50 GMT

    Siddhartha_S and AbrahamBenjamin. I think you should look a bit closer at Alec Stewart's record before questioning his status. In my book 8463 test runs in a very poor side and all made against attacks containing McGrath, Warne, Donald, Pollock, Wasim, Waqar, Ambrose and Walsh gives a man a fairly compelling case to be regarded as a great of the game. especially as he moved up and down the order and kept wicket. To put it in context, Stewart only scored 77 test runs less than Viv Richards and I don't see anyone claiming Viv isn't a great of the game!

  • satish619chandar on July 13, 2012, 9:43 GMT

    @Siddhartha_S: Ha ha.. May be, Stewart was standing somewhere within the press conference area and AB could have just caught napping and named him.. BTW, Stewart was a decent ODI bat for England.. He might have been a good English keeper but certainly not a legend when it comes to world cricket.. If he is, then we can name even Saba Karim a legend!

  • Selassie-I on July 13, 2012, 9:39 GMT

    appreciating that his ave has improved while keeping in ODIs but it could be different from spending half a day focussing if he's kept keeping for 100+ overs by cook, trott etc. then a few early wickets fall and he's in to bat without too much rest. many have struggled but fair play if he does well... he'll become one of, if not the most valuable test cricketers in the game.

  • Siddhartha_S on July 13, 2012, 8:33 GMT

    Wasn't expecting to laugh as much as I did when reading this article, but "Greats of the game such as Alec Stewart..." LMAO!!

  • RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on July 13, 2012, 8:20 GMT

    I hope before handing the gloves to AB, south africa remember that he is the best batsman in the history of south african cricket and one of the best ever

  • veerakannadiga on July 13, 2012, 8:10 GMT

    all the best AB.We will miss Boucher, that's for sure, yet, life has to move on. Get well soon Mark. wishes from a RCB fan.

  • on July 13, 2012, 8:04 GMT

    De villiars will rock as a test keeper for sure. He has the enthusiasasm, the technique and the mind set based on strength.

  • JG2704 on July 13, 2012, 7:58 GMT

    There are differing views about AB keeping wicket and how it will affect the side. His stats showed that he improved his batting in ODIs after he started with the gloves. Obviously in tests it could be different. I'm not sure if he has kept wicket in tests before , but if not , saying he won't be able to combine the roles is pure supposition. One things for sure , If AB can combine the 2 roles successfully it makes Engs job that much harder. If he can't and SA lose the series then that will obviously be the only reason why acc to many on here.

  • teo. on July 13, 2012, 12:35 GMT

    SA have always had the fighting spirit, and Bouch was just the embodiment of that character. Believe me, the whole team, none more so than AB also possess this. With Duminy @ 7, SA will have 4 specialists bowlers, + Kallis's seam + Duminy's offspin... BOTH have been called "golden arms" i.e. The habit of breaking big partnerships or taking crucial unexpected wickets.... I can only hope... :) So, I dont think a 5th specialist bowler is necessary.

  • zapeta on July 13, 2012, 12:14 GMT

    It's a very option for SA. its really great to see a senior playerr like him ready to do the job that most Wicket keepers left. AB wants to be an allrounder and create a place for allrounder in the Team. AB we love your decision, you are capable keeper and future Captain. we wish to watch you behind the stumps in all formats.

  • DJ432554 on July 13, 2012, 9:50 GMT

    Siddhartha_S and AbrahamBenjamin. I think you should look a bit closer at Alec Stewart's record before questioning his status. In my book 8463 test runs in a very poor side and all made against attacks containing McGrath, Warne, Donald, Pollock, Wasim, Waqar, Ambrose and Walsh gives a man a fairly compelling case to be regarded as a great of the game. especially as he moved up and down the order and kept wicket. To put it in context, Stewart only scored 77 test runs less than Viv Richards and I don't see anyone claiming Viv isn't a great of the game!

  • satish619chandar on July 13, 2012, 9:43 GMT

    @Siddhartha_S: Ha ha.. May be, Stewart was standing somewhere within the press conference area and AB could have just caught napping and named him.. BTW, Stewart was a decent ODI bat for England.. He might have been a good English keeper but certainly not a legend when it comes to world cricket.. If he is, then we can name even Saba Karim a legend!

  • Selassie-I on July 13, 2012, 9:39 GMT

    appreciating that his ave has improved while keeping in ODIs but it could be different from spending half a day focussing if he's kept keeping for 100+ overs by cook, trott etc. then a few early wickets fall and he's in to bat without too much rest. many have struggled but fair play if he does well... he'll become one of, if not the most valuable test cricketers in the game.

  • Siddhartha_S on July 13, 2012, 8:33 GMT

    Wasn't expecting to laugh as much as I did when reading this article, but "Greats of the game such as Alec Stewart..." LMAO!!

  • RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on July 13, 2012, 8:20 GMT

    I hope before handing the gloves to AB, south africa remember that he is the best batsman in the history of south african cricket and one of the best ever

  • veerakannadiga on July 13, 2012, 8:10 GMT

    all the best AB.We will miss Boucher, that's for sure, yet, life has to move on. Get well soon Mark. wishes from a RCB fan.

  • on July 13, 2012, 8:04 GMT

    De villiars will rock as a test keeper for sure. He has the enthusiasasm, the technique and the mind set based on strength.

  • JG2704 on July 13, 2012, 7:58 GMT

    There are differing views about AB keeping wicket and how it will affect the side. His stats showed that he improved his batting in ODIs after he started with the gloves. Obviously in tests it could be different. I'm not sure if he has kept wicket in tests before , but if not , saying he won't be able to combine the roles is pure supposition. One things for sure , If AB can combine the 2 roles successfully it makes Engs job that much harder. If he can't and SA lose the series then that will obviously be the only reason why acc to many on here.

  • JG2704 on July 13, 2012, 7:58 GMT

    As a first , I agree with Sirsobers that if AB keeps wicket to go for the extra pace bowler. I wish our guys do the same as Prior is as likely to score at 6 as anyone we bring in and it's the bowlers who win matches and I don't believe the 6 batsmen in reality makes a difference to the Eng sides depth as I don't recall a situation where our number 6 has come in when we were 4 down and under pressure and changed the course of an inns. Maybe someone could recall times when this has happened but in UAE and SL when we were in trouble our number 6 gave our line up paper depth only. I know we have done well here with 6 batsmen but I don't recall a test where that 6th batsman made a difference and therefore our performances have been usually due to 5 batsmen , Prior and 4 bowlers

  • JG2704 on July 13, 2012, 7:57 GMT

    Is my memory fading here? It says that Stewart's batting form suffered from his WK role but I seem to remember he 1st came in as a fielder and his early form was bad. I can't remember if he became WK after his form with the bat improved or before or around the same time but I wouldn't say it hampered his form

  • on July 13, 2012, 7:14 GMT

    I would certainly add Duminy as our seam bowlers are very potent and will certainly take 20 wickets and this gives us a offspinning option as well. Our batting needs to be as strong as possible to wear Englands bowlers down. If we can wear down their bolwers in the first test, it will go a long way to put them under pressure. They dont often have sides outbat them, but when it does happen, they end up looking like a deer caught in headlights. This happened last time we were there. This will make their supporters turn agains them, seeing their much hyped bowling unit toyle for wickets. They are very good, so it will require very good batting to do so. Smith needs to do what he did the first time he was there and was so motivated as they played without Kallis. Now they playing without Boucher. Dare I say, beware England!!!!!!

  • Gilji on July 13, 2012, 7:00 GMT

    May be in ODI wicket keeping may not affect his batting but in test it will affect your batting. He may be used temporarily but not as a permanent. South Africa must find a suitable replacement for Boucher otherwise it will be difficult what is good test side in all kind of surfaces. I assure that Kirsten and Smith wont make such mistakes considering their super mind in taking good decisions.

  • on July 13, 2012, 6:25 GMT

    I think its a poor decision too make AB the keeper. It may seriously affect his batting,odi and test is not same. Also saf will lose the best fielder in the world. On the other hand the advantage is duminy can be included in the team,fuf du plesis can be another good choice as duminy cant play short balls.

  • on July 13, 2012, 5:52 GMT

    What's the point calling Tsolekile up if he is not going to play. The Proteas coaches are just exposing themselves to unwaranted criticisms, which may end up causing divisions within the team, if they ignore Thami. He is a competent wickie, and should rightly be handed those gloves so that AB can focus on what he does best - batting.

  • MRQP on July 13, 2012, 5:36 GMT

    A.B., already you are a big danger for the opponents in all types of cricket but the new role you are being given in test matches is even more dangerous for the test playing teams. Beware test teams.

  • anver777 on July 13, 2012, 5:02 GMT

    SA need to search for a permanent keeper like Boucher for future......... better to release AB, so he can concentrate more on his captaincy & batting... And also he's a classy fielder at any given position.

  • Meety on July 13, 2012, 4:47 GMT

    The gamble for the Saffas is ABs batting average when he is designated keeper, it is only 22.

  • landl47 on July 13, 2012, 2:54 GMT

    Let's hope AB is taking one of those rests when a vital chance comes his way! Whether SA is strengthened or not is debatable; how much better whoever comes in as replacement will be than Boucher with the bat, and if that will compensate for losing Boucher behind the stumps and AB in the field (not a negligible loss), we'll have to see. I don't think AB's batting will be affected that much, since he bats at 5 anyway- it's not like he's opening or batting at #3. The real downside is one he mentioned himself- keeping is hard on the back and if you're not used to it, keeping for a full test innings might be very taxing.

  • tpjpower on July 13, 2012, 2:28 GMT

    "...if the gloves come my way, in the Test matches... It's something I'll take with both hands." AB accepts both gloves simply won't fit on one hand.

  • BRUTALANALYST on July 13, 2012, 1:15 GMT

    With AB keeping it al;lows SA to add another batsman or bowler, in these English conditions I'd personally love to see Steyn Morkell Tsotsobe Philander all playing as well as the leg spin of tahir now that is a serious bowling attack equal to anyone all options covered, Skiddy seeming quick , Tall, Left arm and the best in the world (Steyn)with a very promising leg spinner.

  • theswami on July 13, 2012, 1:01 GMT

    How well can AB baby replace Boucher the Master is yet to be seen ...????

  • AbrahamBenjamin on July 13, 2012, 0:22 GMT

    "Greats of the game such as Alec Stewart..." - under what criteria is Alec Stewart one of the greats of the game??

  • subbass on July 12, 2012, 23:09 GMT

    SA losing Boucher is an advantage to England I think. You need a genuine Test standard keeper in England and Micky Arthur even described it as a huge loss to them. Still it does not mean AB won't score heavily and catch everything that comes his way, he may well do this. But it could also be the difference between him scoring a few hundreds or not getting even a 50 in the series.

  • teo. on July 12, 2012, 22:15 GMT

    I love Bouch, and wish him a recovery.. with all due respect, SA will now have a stronger side. The top 7 will be undoubtedly the best batting lineup in the world (for the 1st test atleast).. any of the top 7 batsmen capable of making a 200... I also think it would be nice to experiment and throw FAF into the mix at 7. Just to throw Eng off a little, he bowls a bit, and his fielding will more then compensate for AB at point.. just a thought.

  • on July 12, 2012, 21:28 GMT

    He's a fine keeper but keeping in IPL,T20,ODI is one thing and doing it in Test Cricket is other. But ABD is a super fit guy who has improved his keeping over the year. Also,it allows SA to play an extra batsman as 7 which will be handy in England but it does is that it makes ABD quite tired and busy before he comes onto bat which wouldn't hadn't been the case earlier. For the 1st test,going in with ABD is fine but for the other 2 tests,SA have to go with Tsolekile no matter how he bats because in Test Cricket,you need specialist keepers and keeping in England is tough because sometimes the balls swing after passes the stumps. Dhoni,who's a fine keeper did struggle a bit in England because of the same reason. Also,1 dropped catch can make a difference in such a high intensity series. ABD as a batsman is massive for SA. His utility will decrease as a batsman if he keeps. For the 2nd,3rd test,SA should give it to Tsolekile,doesn't matter he scores with the bat or not.

  • SATID on July 12, 2012, 21:12 GMT

    Proteas can now field another recognized batsmen or quality allrounder in someone like Faf. As long as the politically motivated Tsolekile stay far away from the squad the development with Boucher saga is baaaad news for England.

  • SATID on July 12, 2012, 21:11 GMT

    Proteas can now field another recognized batsmen or quality allrounder in someone like Faf. As long as the politically motivated Tsolekile stay far away from the squad the development with Boucher saga is baaaad news for England.

  • wibblewibble on July 12, 2012, 20:07 GMT

    The ball shouldn't move around too much after its passed the wicket at the Oval, but at Headingly and Lord's it will move quite a bit, and he might find Steyn and Morkel slightly harder work than the IPL medium pacers he's kept against after 90+ overs in the field. If England win the toss and its not a green top, they'll almost certainly bat first just to put him through the wringer.

  • JG2704 on July 12, 2012, 18:53 GMT

    It sounds like AB is going to have few probs combining the 2 roles , so maybe we'd (as English fans) be strawclutching in thinking that keeping will have a detrimental effect to his batting.Only a week away now - starting to get the old nerves

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 12, 2012, 18:50 GMT

    I find it hard to believe he finds keeping more restful than out-fielding! O.K. you don't have to run (as much), but as a keeper there's a chance that EVERY ball played will at some stage have to make it into your gloves. There is not much room for lapses in concentration in cricket as a keeper. AB is v. good though - I'm sure he will do well in England.

  • on July 12, 2012, 18:06 GMT

    Best of luck AB, it is a great loss for SA after losing Bouchy, fantastic wicketkeeper.

  • Cpt.Meanster on July 12, 2012, 18:04 GMT

    I feel AB is not a test keeper material. He's okay in the limited overs formats. Tests need a different approach and mental state. AB is a fairly 'nice' guy to be anywhere near the keeper position in tests. Boucher was an aggressive sledger, a war horse. Doubt even Thami Tsolkele would bring those qualities to the table. But a specialist keeper batsman is a basic requirement for SA and AB is better off elsewhere.

  • SurlyCynic on July 12, 2012, 17:54 GMT

    Having Duminy coming in at 7 and adding a part time spin option is a big difference to having Tsolekile coming in at 7 and struggling with the bat, even if AB doesn't make as many runs. The question is whether he will drop simple chances, guess we'll find out. If he can keep to a decent standard SA would suddenly have the best batsman amongst wicketkeepers.

  • on July 12, 2012, 17:40 GMT

    I believe thar AB will be able to handle the extra load. He is a fantastic player and as his ODI records suggest he manages quite well when doing both roles. He'll be just fine and it means that JP Duminy can probably come in the middle order or SA can work on replacing Kallis as well by giving an all-rounder experience at no. 7

  • spence1324 on July 12, 2012, 17:34 GMT

    Wicketkeeping in England is no cup of tea AB, the bowl swings all over the place here definitely the hardest place in the world to keep no doubt. Even matt prior who I regard as the best keeper in the world at this present time says he still finds it hard.

  • on July 12, 2012, 17:24 GMT

    Mark Boucher.."One of the Most veteran keeper" .. You will always be remembered Mark :-)!

  • funkyandy on July 12, 2012, 17:22 GMT

    Its the day cricket lovers all over the world should be dreading. No more AB magic in the field - stunning catches, fantastic run outs and saving everything hit near him! I hate seeing AB with the gloves on - the best fielder in the world and he's stuck behind the timbers - a tragic waste of cricketing talent!

  • BellCurve on July 12, 2012, 17:17 GMT

    I am so relieved. It appears De Villiers will keep in all 3 matches. Tsolekile would have been a huge step backwards.

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  • BellCurve on July 12, 2012, 17:17 GMT

    I am so relieved. It appears De Villiers will keep in all 3 matches. Tsolekile would have been a huge step backwards.

  • funkyandy on July 12, 2012, 17:22 GMT

    Its the day cricket lovers all over the world should be dreading. No more AB magic in the field - stunning catches, fantastic run outs and saving everything hit near him! I hate seeing AB with the gloves on - the best fielder in the world and he's stuck behind the timbers - a tragic waste of cricketing talent!

  • on July 12, 2012, 17:24 GMT

    Mark Boucher.."One of the Most veteran keeper" .. You will always be remembered Mark :-)!

  • spence1324 on July 12, 2012, 17:34 GMT

    Wicketkeeping in England is no cup of tea AB, the bowl swings all over the place here definitely the hardest place in the world to keep no doubt. Even matt prior who I regard as the best keeper in the world at this present time says he still finds it hard.

  • on July 12, 2012, 17:40 GMT

    I believe thar AB will be able to handle the extra load. He is a fantastic player and as his ODI records suggest he manages quite well when doing both roles. He'll be just fine and it means that JP Duminy can probably come in the middle order or SA can work on replacing Kallis as well by giving an all-rounder experience at no. 7

  • SurlyCynic on July 12, 2012, 17:54 GMT

    Having Duminy coming in at 7 and adding a part time spin option is a big difference to having Tsolekile coming in at 7 and struggling with the bat, even if AB doesn't make as many runs. The question is whether he will drop simple chances, guess we'll find out. If he can keep to a decent standard SA would suddenly have the best batsman amongst wicketkeepers.

  • Cpt.Meanster on July 12, 2012, 18:04 GMT

    I feel AB is not a test keeper material. He's okay in the limited overs formats. Tests need a different approach and mental state. AB is a fairly 'nice' guy to be anywhere near the keeper position in tests. Boucher was an aggressive sledger, a war horse. Doubt even Thami Tsolkele would bring those qualities to the table. But a specialist keeper batsman is a basic requirement for SA and AB is better off elsewhere.

  • on July 12, 2012, 18:06 GMT

    Best of luck AB, it is a great loss for SA after losing Bouchy, fantastic wicketkeeper.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 12, 2012, 18:50 GMT

    I find it hard to believe he finds keeping more restful than out-fielding! O.K. you don't have to run (as much), but as a keeper there's a chance that EVERY ball played will at some stage have to make it into your gloves. There is not much room for lapses in concentration in cricket as a keeper. AB is v. good though - I'm sure he will do well in England.

  • JG2704 on July 12, 2012, 18:53 GMT

    It sounds like AB is going to have few probs combining the 2 roles , so maybe we'd (as English fans) be strawclutching in thinking that keeping will have a detrimental effect to his batting.Only a week away now - starting to get the old nerves