Southampton: South African captain Faf du Plessis has broken his silence on the controversy surrounding AB de Villiers' wanting to come out of retirement for the World Cup, saying he had told the swashbuckler that it was too late to consider the offer.
Just after South Africa lost to India by six wickets on 6 June, news came out that de Villiers had wanted to come out of retirement for the World Cup but his last-ditch offer was rejected by South Africa's team management on the eve of the squad announcement.
Du Plessis, who has not spoken on the issue earlier, chose to open up on Monday after his side's match against the West Indies was washed out. He said de Villiers made the request to him on a phone-call when both of them were in India playing in the recent IPL.
Du Plessis was playing for Chennai Super Kings and de Villiers for Royal Challengers Bangalore.
"He (de Villiers) didn't come to me. It was just a conversation, a phone call the night before the team got announced. It was just a 'This is what I'm feeling'. I said to him 'I think it is too late but I will check in with the coach and the selectors the next morning to get their opinion on it as the squad was already announced or picked'," du Plessis said.
"But that day there was the announcement. When I spoke to the coach and the selectors the next day, they all agreed that it was way, way too late to change the team on 99.99," he said at the post-match press conference.
ESPNcricinfo had claimed that de Villiers approached du Plessis, head coach Ottis Gibson and convenor of selectors Linda Zondi, expressing his desire to come out of international retirement, but the offer was not entertained by the trio.
De Villiers had called it quits from international cricket in May 2018, claiming that he was "tired" and "running out of gas".
Du Plessis insisted that the furore surrounding de Villiers' proposed return from international retirement has not been a factor in the team's disjointed display in the World Cup so far and instead he believes it could be the sort of issue that draws the squad closer together.
"I think a little bit of both. I think to say no, it didn't, or to say yes, it did, unites us as a team. We do feel like the news came in and went through the team. It didn't have a huge impact. There was just a discussion on clarity and on making sure everyone knows what's going on and then it was moving on.
"The team was happy to get on with business. But it is stuff like that, generally, that can give you direction in your team and give you purpose to focus on what lies ahead," he said.