AB de Villiers

SA great tells AB to focus on limited-overs

Graeme Smith believes AB de Villiers has been unfairly criticised as the Proteas star weighs up his playing future

AB de Villiers has been advised to end the ambiguity around his future and retire from Test cricket plus drop the limited-overs captaincy in a bid to prolong his career through to the 2019 World Cup.

The 33-year-old South African great has not played a Test since January 2016 and missed, among others, last summer's tour of Australia with an elbow injury.

He departed England this week promising a "final decision" in August on his playing future, with lifting the World Cup back in England in two years' time his oft-stated goal.

Former skipper Graeme Smith said de Villiers had intended to quit Test cricket last year before the Proteas toured Australia but was persuaded to not give up on the five-day format by Cricket South Africa officials.

Smith expects de Villiers to be firmer in his intention to walk away from the five-day format when he sits down with CSA officials again in August.

"It’s my belief that AB was looking to walk away from the Test game last year at some point, but has been encouraged to carry on by CSA," Smith wrote in a column for Britain's Independent newspaper.

"His personal prerogative is ensuring he does all he can to add as much longevity to his international career as possible, as well as taking in to account the harsh realities of touring such as the amount of travel involved, and the toll that takes on your body.

"AB is due to assess his future with CSA later this summer, and my advice to him would be to step away from the captaincy, and concentrate his energy in to maintaining his levels in white-ball cricket for the next two years.

"Put simply, if that is what’s best for him and the longevity of his career, then that is what’s best for South African cricket.

"Those criticising AB, and this decision in particular, need to ask themselves whether they would rather de Villiers played in the upcoming (Test) series and walked away from international cricket in a year, or have the opportunity to see him go on and play for his country at another big ICC tournament."

De Villiers' recovery from the elbow injury took much longer than first expected and the star's form has been well below his best since returning.

He was a late starter for Royal Challengers Bangalore during the IPL season, and saw South Africa crash to 2-1 series defeats in 50-over and T20 series against England that bookended another ignominious early exit from the Champions Trophy tournament.

AB's first-baller adds to Proteas' poor start

With no involvement in the England Tests, de Villiers wants clarity before South Africa tour Bangladesh in September.

"I am going to meet with CSA (Cricket South Africa) in August, and that will decide my (international) future," de Villiers told reporters after making a typically dashing 35 off 19 balls in the third T20 in Cardiff.

"We will see what works for both parties.

"We are not going to pick and choose games, but we are going to make a final decision about what happens for the next few years."

Smith said de Villiers had been unfairly chastised in some quarters for turning his back on the Test team after scoring more than 8,000 runs in 106 matches.

"The last year to eighteen months has seen AB criticised for ‘picking and choosing’ his tours, and I don’t feel that the PR around the issue has been handled at all well by those around him," Smith wrote.

"We are talking about a South African great, a world cricket great, who’s played in over 100 Test Matches for his country over thirteen years.

"AB has already made huge sacrifices for South African cricket, over such a long period of time, and with the next ICC World Cup just two years away, it’s likely that he is targeting that tournament as a swansong to his already illustrious career at the top level.

"What has AB de Villiers got to prove to anyone? He’s a star, and those players are often expected to be available all of the time no matter what the consequences might be personally."

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