London, June 9 (IANS) South Africa coach Ottis Gibson revealed that former captain AB de Villiers had “left it too late” to make himself available for selection for the squad in the 2019 World Cup. “Personally I suspect there are a lot of people wanting AB to be here (more) than AB himself,” Gibson said. “If he wanted to be here he would be here.”
Speaking to the media on Saturday ahead of South Africa’s match against the West Indies, Gibson said that de Villiers, who had retired from international cricket in May 2018, had spoken with captain Faf du Plessis and later Gibson about making a comeback into the squad.
While the conversation with du Plessis took place during the 2019 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), de Villiers spoke with Gibson just before the South African squad for the World Cup was announced.
Gibson said his “immediate reaction” to de Villiers at the time was that “you’ve left it too late. That’s what I said — you can quote me on that — that’s what I said.”
The former West Indies pacer, who has been coaching South Africa since August 2017, said that the door for a possible return for de Villiers was open till December 2018 after which South Africa played Pakistan and Sri Lanka before the start of the World Cup. But de Villiers never made himself available in that period.
“The door was open till December and after that to come into the piece … he knew that if he really wanted to, he knew that those ten games against Pakistan and Sri Lanka were vitally important for us, since from March to World Cup we won’t have any more cricket. He knew that, and again, he has made his choice,” he said.
Gibson also said that he had spoken to de Villiers on the day that the latter had made his retirement announcement. “I don’t think you should have to beg a guy to play for his country, but I did make it clear to him that I did think he had made a bad decision, and he could help us win the World Cup, and he said he had made his decision and he wanted to have time to spend with his family and that was the end of that,” he said.
He had also spoken with de Villiers in December 2018 at SuperSport Park when the 35-year-old was doing television work during a domestic match. “I saw him briefly on the field… and I said, ‘are you finished with this retirement nonsense yet?’ And he said ‘I’m happy with my retirement and I’m happy with the decision I’ve made’, and that was the end of that as far as the Proteas were concerned and I was concerned,” said Gibson.
Gibson also said that Cricket South Africa and the chairman of selectors had also come to a similar conclusion as him and du Plessis. “A lot had happened since then (de Villiers’ retirement) — we’d moved on.” De Villiers was also told, if he wanted to be available for the World Cup, then he would have to make himself available for the matches against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, “and he didn’t”.