South Africa in Sri Lanka 2014 July 22, 2014

De Villiers likely to give up keeping


AB de Villiers has conceded long-term back issues could force him to give up wicketkeeping in Tests, as he has done in limited-overs cricket. De Villiers was unable to keep in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle because of a hamstring niggle and though he has recovered, he is unlikely to keep in the second Test as well.

"In the last game I had that hammy issue. That's sort of recovered, but my back's always been an issue," de Villiers said. "It's difficult to take on the gloves, especially keeping in mind that I haven't kept for six or seven months now. So, with that injury and a two-day turnaround after the day off yesterday, for me to get into shape with my gloves on would be a little bit unfair with my back."

It means Quinton de Kock, who took eight catches, had one stumping, and scored his maiden Test half-century in Galle, can be assured of his place in the XI at the SSC. With South Africa unlikely to change their batting line-up Stiaan van Zyl, who topped last season's first-class run charts, will have to wait his turn.

All of that remains fluid, though, because de Villiers is unsure of his plans, except to say that if he keeps again he will only do so only if fully fit. "I'd still like to think that I'm a wicketkeeping-batsman and whatever the team wants me to do, I'll do that," he said. "But we'd have to manage it really well so that I don't come into a series having not kept for five or six months. I have to come prepared to a series without any niggles."

South Africa's next Test assignment is a one-off match against Zimbabwe two weeks after the series in Sri Lanka ends, which may mean de Villiers does not have time to return to full wicketkeeping fitness by then. If that is the case, he won't mind occupying a place at slip in Harare. "I do enjoy fielding. It's tough at slip. The ball doesn't come to you very often. So from that perspective I enjoy keeping more - you're in the game the whole time. But it's nice to pull off something special every now and then in the field, to keep the intensity and the energy going."

Despite indications that de Villiers will give up the Test gloves permanently, the move comes too late for him to be considered for captaincy. One of the reasons de Villiers missed out on the leadership role to Hashim Amla was because he was considered overburdened by having to bat in the top five and keep wicket. Adding a third crucial responsibility was seen as a step too far, though de Villiers made himself available for captaincy.

At the time, de Villiers had admitted disappointment but promised to throw his weight behind Amla, and he reiterated that after Amla's first Test in charge. "He made a flawless start. He's always been a natural leader," de Villiers said. "What happened was something in the past. Obviously, I would have liked to do the job but he got it and I'm 100% behind him. He knows that. He had a great start and I think he's going to have an amazing career as a captain. He's got all the credentials, everything that you need to be a great leader. The whole team is right behind him."

The immediate way of showing that will be by helping Amla regain the No.1 Test ranking. To do that, South Africa need a win or a draw in Colombo, which will give them a series victory and the fraction of the point they need to leapfrog Australia.

De Villiers hoped to play his part with the bat. "I didn't have a huge Test match with the bat in the last game, although I played a decent knock in the second innings. I'd love to get in and make an impact for the team and get us into a position where we can win the game. It's never been about my own runs. If I can score as many as possible to get us into a position to win then I'll be a very happy man."

He also wants to do it for another reason. The last time South Africa lost a Test series on the road was in 2006, in Sri Lanka. De Villiers, Amla and Dale Steyn are the only remaining members of that squad. "It was very bad. I don't want to think about it," De Villiers said. "It's been eight years and I remember the change room and some of the memories come to my mind. It was eight years ago and hopefully we'll turn it around. Let's look at it as payback time."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 28, 2014, 7:08 GMT

    AB, you are the person who will walk on the broken glass when the team asked you to do. You are awesome. Keep doing ur good job, whether its keeping batting fielding Captaining the side. Anything you do, you will survive with that and give your best. Keep rocking mate..!

  • Ramana on July 24, 2014, 1:06 GMT

    Can never understand why ABD wanted to keep wicket in the first place. He shud hv kept things simple : become the worlds best batsman. succeed Smith as captain !

  • kieran on July 23, 2014, 22:14 GMT

    @Greatest_Game, thanks, but we knew all that. I guess I don't understand why he was pushed into that position. Again, SA were losing their best fielder and potentially weakening one of the best and most dangerous batsman by pushing him in to keep (with full knowledge of his history of back issues and reluctance to keep).

    Those other batsmen would soon gain their chance soon enough with player retirement and form losses. Meanwhile de Kock was showing glimpses of huge talent.

    And based on his short record since 2012, no, AB would not have been the best keeper/batsman of all time.

  • David on July 23, 2014, 18:34 GMT

    @ HatsforBats on commented "AB being keeper just never made sense to me."

    AB kept for years, all through school, so it was not new to when he took over. Boucher owned the position, but AB was his backup: if Bouch was out, AB kept. It was a huge asset to have a great standby in the squad.

    Replacing Boucher was a question. Tsolekile was & under contract with the squad, but though a good gloveman, his batting is weak. When Boucher's career abruptly ended, the choice was Thami or AB, but AB allowed the team another specialist batsman. AB was VERY reluctant, but Smith & Kirsten pushed, so he stepped up for the team.

    AB clear back in 09 he did not want to return to keeping, but by doing so he made space for other batsmen. Rudolf failed, but Faf, Elgar, & Duminy to an extent, owe their places to him. de Kock finally, if his form holds, gives the team what AB did - a world class batsman/keeper.

    Based on his short record since 2012, AB would have been the best batsman/keeper of all time!

  • kieran on July 23, 2014, 13:57 GMT

    AB being keeper just never made sense to me. He's one of the best fielders in the world and one of the best batsman, it made no sense to burden him with keeping when they have de Kock (clearly a talented batsman and promising keeper) tailor-made to slot in for the next decade. AB the keeper is much easier to replace than AB the predatory in-fielder or reliable slipper.

  • David on July 23, 2014, 12:01 GMT

    Beertjie & StaalBurgher seemed to have noticed a not terribly well disguised theme that others have touched on. In 2009 AB stated emphatically that he did not want to keep, he wanted to bat! But, when Bouch was injured and the title was on the line, he stepped up. And he has kept at it until a skilled enough player, skilled enough to keep the Proteas at the top, could take the role.

    QdK has proven that he can do the job. The kid is now ranked number 11 in ODI batsmen! In his first test keeping he joined the elite 27 to have taken 9 (or more) wickets in a match. Done deal. AB does not have to keep any more. Job well done, AB, let the kid do the work!

    Ironically, AB is actually the most talented keeper of the lot! He really is phenomenal at any role he plays. I wish that years ago he had had the urge to focus on a little spin bowling. Given the way he plays any sport, he'd no doubt have been a little more than "useful."

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2014, 11:44 GMT

    Everybody wants Alviro to be dropped. why? As an opener he is not doing too badly. Who are we going to replace him with. Quinton is the keeper and he still needs to find his feet in the test arena. He will never keep and open in my team. JP must bat before him in any case.

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2014, 11:33 GMT

    Although Thami's batting improved a lot over the years since replacing boucher his batting is not on the same par as Quinton's. His keeping is much better than that of Quinton and Quinton is not a bad keeper. I have seen him drop 2 catches in the proteas team and both from morne morkel. Quinton is young and his ability with the bat is better than that of thami and that's the reason for playing him. His keeping will improve. he is the future of this team along with many other youngsters coming through in the domestic circuit.

  • Dummy4 on July 23, 2014, 10:07 GMT

    Just wondering, can't the keeping duty be shared between QDK and AB? For example, one can keep in the morning session till lunch and the other after that. This way both of them will get ample rest and be fresh for batting, since both of them are superb batsmen, as well as fielders.

    The same thing applies to SL too. Can't Silva and Sangakkara share the keeping duties? or at least till such time Jayawardene returns? Why get a keeper from an England tour??

  • Mashuq on July 23, 2014, 9:30 GMT

    It's actually been 4 months AB, not 5 or 6 or 7 months, but hey, whose counting? Everyone wanted Quinton in the team as wk-bat and now that it has happened you can spin any story you like!