South Africa news October 4, 2012

De Villiers in doubt for Australia tour

AB de Villiers will not play in the Champions League T20 and could be in doubt for South Africa's tour to Australia in November after he sustained a double injury blow at the World T20.

De Villiers' persistent lower back and left ankle problems have recurred and "need attention because either one could rule him out of the Australia series," according to Mohammed Moosajee, South African team manager, who is also a medical doctor.

"If we don't manage it properly, he could be out. His back and his ankle are worse than they were previously," Moosajee said. "If it wasn't a World Cup and he wasn't captain of the team, we would probably have made a decision to send him home earlier."

Moosajee confirmed both injuries have come back because of de Villiers' workload and the "volume of cricket we played over the last three and a half months". Despite the diagnosis de Villiers was defiant that he was not being overburdened and would not even mind curtailing his career if it allowed him to continue doing captaining the limited-overs sides, batting in the middle order and taking the gloves.

"I am enjoying the captaincy so much, it's something I wouldn't like to give up," he said. "Batting for the team and taking the gloves for the side, knowing the position I am playing in is better for the side and we can win more games, that gives me a lot of pleasure. If I miss out on a year at the end of my career so be it but we should win games."

De Villiers did concede on one area, though: that he needs some breaks but cannot, and does not want to take any. "It's something we will have to discuss. Maybe a bit of rest time here and there which is difficult because I am captain of two of the teams and I wouldn't like to miss any Tests."

The last four months are a good case study for what an extended workload will do to de Villiers' fitness. He was one of the members of the South African squad who has been on tour since July and plays across all three formats. He did not miss a single match and the seriousness of his injuries show for it.

De Villiers donning the gloves was always suspected to be a problem because of what Moosajee calls his "chronic" lower back issues. But, when Mark Boucher's career was freakishly ended - injured in South Africa's first moments on the field in England, in a tour match at Taunton - de Villiers was the emergency replacement. He kept for all three Tests and his batting suffered and he did not score a single half-century. He also took the gloves in the one-day and T20 series and for the entire duration of the World T20.

Combined, that amount of cricket resulted in his back issue returning. "The more you play, the higher the chances are of it flaring up and then you've got to manage it," Moosajee said. "That's where the physio comes in with the treatment and this time treatment hasn't allowed it to heal substantially."

His current injury "generally" needs a three or four week recovery period but the exact amount of time will only be known after de Villiers has seen the specialist. Even if he is fit enough to go to Australia, he will need monitoring and the possibility of the injury recurring will always remain.

South Africa do have other options, though. Thami Tsolekile was contracted in March, when Boucher announced his decision to retire after the England tour, and so became the successor. He was called up to England when Boucher returned home and played in tour matches at Worcester and Derby but did not play in a single Test.

Tsolekile's batting is thought to be the reason he was left out but he has made strides in that department. In the first two fixtures of the domestic season, Tsolekile scored 43 and 70 for the Lions franchise and everyone from former national wicketkeeper Ray Jennings to franchise coach Geoffrey Toyana says he is ready for Test cricket again.

He is certain to be included in the squad to Australia and there was talk that he would make his comeback against New Zealand at home in December, but that may be fast-tracked. With Jacques Rudolph not showing any great form at No. 6, JP Duminy may be moved up the order for Tsolekile to slot at No. 7 and South Africa could go back to a six specialist batsmen strategy.

De Villiers' home franchise, the Titans, will also have to look for a replacement and they will not have too much to choose from. He was the only international player available for them after Morne Morkel, Albie Morkel and Faf du Plessis chose to play for their IPL franchises instead. The Titans are also without quick Marchant de Lange who is still in the final stages of recovery from lower back spasms and is also unlikely to be fit for the tour to Australia.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments