AB skips Bangladesh… for Zimbabwe?

Perhaps AB de Villiers didn’t feel he would be ready for the Bangladesh Test series – maybe he needs some more cricket in his arms and legs.

Or, and I happen to believe this is entirely fair enough and reasonable, maybe he simply believes that he has finite number of days of Test cricket left (unlike Steve Waugh and Sachin Tendulkar who could have played until they were 50) and he would rather spend them playing against India and Australia at Centurion or the Wanderers rather than Bangladesh in Potchefstroom and Bloemfontein.

If anybody is reading that with a degree of cynicism – don’t. As in life, all cricket matches are not equal. You get all the confirmation you need of that every time you hear a cricketer say it. If they really were all equal, of course, they wouldn’t need to.

As I have said for over a year, those who have criticised de Villiers for “picking and choosing” his matches have completely missed the point. Just as it has been for a dozen players before him, de Villiers should have been rested by his employers. When Jacques Kallis needed a rest, either physically or mentally, he wasn’t placed in a position where it seemed he was cherry-picking his games. It was simply announced as a selection policy.

It takes significant courage and honesty to admit that you are not in the best frame of mind to play at your best or most consistent. It may have been bitterly disappointing for fans to see the Proteas succumb to a strong England team without de Villiers in the ranks, but if the man himself knew he wasn’t up for the challenge then he did absolutely the right thing. And if he feels the same way about Bangladesh then, with the greatest respect to a strong team which is finally doing justice to the game in their country, then he is making the right decision once again.

The acute irony in all of this is that his first Test match back – assuming he is fit, has shown some form and is selected – could be against Zimbabwe. With India now not scheduled to arrive until the end of December at the earliest (and consequently placing the New Year Test at Newlands in doubt) Cricket South Africa have been looking for replacement opposition for the Boxing Day Test.

Pakistan were first choice but they are scheduled to leave for their tour of New Zealand on December 26 which leaves Zimbabwe and the ‘new boys’, Ireland and Afghanistan as the only alternatives. A year ago Zimbabwe were barely regarded as credible opposition for Associate teams, never mind worthy of sharing a Test stage with the Proteas. But that has now changed and ZC chief executive, Faisal Hasnain, confirmed that he has been approached.

“We are talking – hopefully it will happen,” he said this week.

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