South Africa T20I captain Quinton de Kock has confirmed that AB de Villiers was in line to make a potential international comeback through this year's T20 World Cup, which was officially postponed to 2021 earlier this week. de Kock's admission is in line with discussions in December last year, when then-captain Faf du Plessis and newly-appointed head coach Mark Boucher had said conversations had been ongoing to try and bring de Villiers back into South Africa's T20I squad.
"He was definitely in line. If fit, I would have loved to have AB de Villiers," de Kock said on the Cricket Connected show on Star Sports. "I think any team would have loved to have AB de Villiers in their team. While we were pushing for him, now we will have to see when the T20 World Cup is going to happen now."
On his part, de Villiers himself had shown a keenness to return and "throw his hat in the ring" for the T20 World Cup without any expectations when he was at the Big Bash League earlier this year.
"There's a lot that needs to happen before that becomes reality, I would love to," de Villers told reporters after making his BBL debut for Brisbane Heat in January. "I've been talking to Bouch, Graeme Smith and Faf back home. We are all keen to make it happen, it's a long way away still and plenty can happen - there's the IPL coming, I've still got to be in form at that time. I'm thinking of throwing my name in the hat and hoping everything will work out.
It was the first definitive statement from the batsman, who retired from international cricket in May 2018 and has since been the subject of regular speculation for a comeback, particularly around last year's ODI World Cup when a last-minute offer to return was turned down by South Africa management.
de Villiers has since been vocal about the comfort around the discussions at present, given the sweeping changes in Cricket South Africa which is now run by many of his former team-mates. He captained the winning side in CSA's experimental 3TC format last week, which was his first match on record since January at the BBL. With the T20 World Cup now scheduled for late 2021, the pathway for a return might have become decidedly longer.