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Doubts raised about de Villiers Test future

AB de Villiers has not played Test cricket for South Africa in more than a year Getty Images

AB de Villiers' Test future appears to be up in the air once again, as he prepares to meet with the South Africa team management to discuss his role in the side when he completes his comeback from injury.

Although de Villiers has completely recovered from the elbow surgery which sidelined him for the last three Test series since the end of the CPL in June, and was expected to slot straight back into the XI as soon as he became available, there are renewed questions over whether he wants to continue in the longest format.

"We need to sit down with him and plan his future," Russell Domingo, South Africa's coach said. "AB has got to make that decision, I can't decide on whether he plays or not.

"When I say that, I mean AB has got to make the decision about whether he is available and the selectors have got to make the decision whether he plays. He has obviously got to make some decision about his future in cricket."

Domingo's comments came after current Test captain, Faf du Plessis, indicated de Villiers was wavering over whether to make a return to the longest format, and was looking at one-day cricket as a priority.

"I'm not sure how AB will feel in terms of Test cricket so we will have to see," du Plessis said. "We are excited to have him back in the one-day team. I am hoping he decides to play [Tests] for us. He is obviously a world-class batter and I, as a captain, would love to have him as a leader in our team, and obviously as a batter. He is a fantastic player."

Du Plessis, a long-time friend of de Villiers, was also asked whether the pair had spoken about de Villiers not returning to Test cricket. He claimed not to have not had that conversation but suggested de Villiers' six-month absence from the game may prompt him not to continue anyway.

"He hasn't played for a while. The plan was for him to play in this series and then the one-dayers start, but now we will see what AB's plans are - whether he wants to play," du Plessis said.

De Villiers, who was named permanent Test captain last January, stepped down in early December, before the Sri Lanka series, when it became clear he would not be fit to play in it. Having already missed the New Zealand and Australia Tests - in which du Plessis was a successful stand-in skipper - and with his recovery period becoming more drawn out, de Villiers felt the team needed to move on.

During those series, Domingo was always firm in his stance that, when de Villiers was available, "someone will have to make way," and a common talking point has been the identity of that player.

With du Plessis installed as captain and JP Duminy finding form at No.4, the spotlight has been on Temba Bavuma, who has struggled in this series, but all official word, including that of the convener of selectors Linda Zondi who was speaking on public broadcaster SABC, is that Bavuma will be retained. That means it is difficult to make room for de Villiers, despite his reputation.

Whether the pressure to find a place, or the concerns over how his elbow will hold up, are playing on de Villiers' mind is not known, but this is the longest he has been out of the game since making his debut 12 years ago.

Ultimately his decision may be based on something entirely different. De Villiers is in demand at T20 leagues around the world and even publicly revealed that he turned down an opportunity to play in the Big Bash last summer. He is also a hot corporate commodity and his MRF bat sponsorship was conditional on him playing all three formats. If that has changed, there is a chance that so too has de Villiers' mind.

Still, he would not be entirely lost to South Africa, and will still lead their ODI side. De Villiers will play a List A match for Northerns next Sunday and, if all goes well, he will play in the third T20 against Sri Lanka before assuming the captaincy ahead of the ODIs. His long-term plan is to take the team to the Champions Trophy and ultimately, the 2019 World Cup.

Morne Morkel was also due to play in that Northerns' match but has suffered a recurrence of some of symptoms of his back niggle. He will need to be reassessed before a call is taken on his availability.