The unexpected retirement from all forms of international cricket by AB de Villiers has come as a surprise and shock to the cricketing world. There have been signs that AB’s retirement was imminent when he missed recent series but it was only expected after the 2019 Cricket World Cup (CWC). He always said that he wanted to win a World Cup for South Africa.
He has been one of the great cricketers of a generation having played in 420 international matches for South Africa with 114 Tests, 228 ODI’s and 78 T20 Internationals. He scored 19,489 international runs with 47 centuries and 109 half centuries. He retires with a Test average of 50.66, an ODI average of 53.50 and a T20I average of 26.12. In a South African context he is one of the top five best batsmen the country has produced alongside Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards, Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla. His greatness is highlighted by his match-winning abilities and statistics across all three formats.
As a member of the Proteas team he played a major role in South Africa’s away wins in England and Australia during his career, especially South Africa’s first ever series win on Australian soil in 2008 and the recent home series win for the first time since 1970 against the Baggy Greens.
However, not even his genius could help the Proteas win a CWC or global tournament. He will be remembered as one of those Proteas who failed at global tournaments. Also, he has not won an Indian Premier League (IPL) title with his team the Royal Challengers Bangalore. However, there will still be opportunities to achieve this milestone in the years to come as he will continue to play in the IPL.
The big question around his retirement is what impact it will have on the Proteas’ chances of winning the 2019 CWC in England. Have the Proteas’ chances been dealt a death blow or are there enough game-breakers left to give them a realistic chance? In the current Proteas system there is no replacement for AB. Rilee Rossouw would be the best option as he has some of the same qualities to destroy attacks in white-ball cricket.
However, Rossouw is currently a Kolpak player with Hampshire and not available for South Africa. This is the first big test for Cricket South Africa (CSA) on how they will handle the Kolpak situation in future. Even if Kolpak becomes extinct, the European and British passport qualification will remain an opportunity for many South African players. It will be interesting to see if CSA will resist global professionalism in cricket to their own detriment.
The retirement of AB has probably cost the Proteas any realistic chance of winning the 2019 CWC. However, his retirement should not be held against him. He should be celebrated as a genius and faithful servant of South African cricket. His genius in picking up length early, fast feet and 360° batting will be missed.