The South African cricket team is going through a tough phase of late. The Faf du Plessis-led side finished their three-month tour of England on Monday and lost the Test series 1-3 against England. Prior to that, the Proteas crashed out of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, continuing their barren run in global tournaments.
The consolatory victory in the third ODI, a convincing one, against England at Lord's in May 2017 might have done a world of good for their confidence, but even a layman would say that South African cricket is in a bit of crisis currently.
And it seems that the absence of AB de Villiers from the Test team is hurting them badly. De Villiers last featured in the longest format in January 2016, since then he has missed series against New Zealand twice (home and away), Australia and Sri Lanka. The Proteas' limited-overs captain has taken a sabbatical from Tests and chosen to focus on the 2019 World Cup. That decision, however, has not gone down well with many former players.
Even du Plessis urged his team to 'move on' and accept that de Villiers will not return to the Test side. The debate has raged on and it almost seems that it's a case of when and not if de Villiers will retire. Amidst the uncertainty and the extra attention around the Proteas' ODI captain's future, former South Africa cricketer Jonty Rhodes has revealed that de Villiers' career would have been over last year but for CSA's intervention.
"I think he wanted to retire a while back from Test cricket, but Cricket South Africa persuaded him to stay on. Before 2016, he was talking to people about his Test future," Rhodes told the Times of India.
He also hinted that South Africans have not yet accepted the concept of Indian Premier League properly, "In SA, people are critical because they don't see the IPL mechanism. They think cricketers are trying to make as much money as possible and it's often at the expense of national call-ups."
Other than de Villiers, South Africa have to find an opening partner for Dean Elgar as Heino Kuhn failed to make the most of his opportunities against Joe Root's men. They also have to fill the No 4 void after sending JP Duminy back home midway through the tour. If reports are to be believed, national head coach Russell Domingo is all set to be replaced by Ottis Gibson, who is currently the bowling coach of England.