AB de Villiers has issued a clarification about the reports that emerged during the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 that he had wanted to come out of international retirement and rejoin the South African ODI squad.
In a statement on Twitter, de Villiers, who exited international cricket in May 2018, hit back at suggestions that he was being selfish. He insisted he did not expect to be a part of the squad, but had agreed to "keep the door open" for an unlikely return for the World Cup, after being asked if he could.
“I retired for honest reasons and, when asked if I could be available for the World Cup, agreed to keep the door open. In the event, understandably, the team moved on. No problem. I am not angry with anybody," he said.
"I made absolutely no demands at all. I certainly did not try to force my way into the World Cup squad on the eve of the tournament, and did not expect to be included. There was no burning issue from my side, and no sense of injustice."
According to reports last month, de Villiers spoke to captain Faf du Plessis and made himself available for selection just 24 hours before the squad announcement, but was not given a go-ahead by the selectors. Cricket South Africa’s selection panel convener Linda Zondi later confirmed having declined de Villiers’ last-minute offer, stating that the decision was taken to stay true to their "morals and principles".
Apart from his year-long retirement, de Villiers hadn't been eligible for World Cup selection since he had not met Cricket South Africa's criteria of playing domestic and international games in the months leading up to the tournament.
I certainly did not try to force my way into the World Cup squad on the eve of the tournament, and did not expect to be included. There was no burning issue from my side, and no sense of injustice
De Villiers confirmed that he and du Plessis had a conversation. "Faf and I have been friends since we were at school together and, two days before the World Cup squad was announced, I contacted him for a chat. I had been in decent form during the Indian Premier League and casually repeated what I had said when asked a year earlier, that I was available if required ... but only if required.”
Details of the conversation first emerged on June 6, a day after South Africa lost to India in their third consecutive game of the World Cup. They eventually finished seventh in the points table, with three wins in nine games.
"Out of the blue, on the evening after the Proteas lost to India, suffering a third successive World Cup defeat, elements of our private conversation were disclosed to the media and distorted to cast me in the worst possible light.
"The story was not leaked by me, or anybody associated with me, or by Faf. Maybe someone wanted to deflect criticism. I don't know. As a result, I was unfairly described as arrogant, selfish and indecisive but, with all humility, my conscience is clear.”
De Villiers, who, in his retirement video, had admitted he wanted to reduce his workload, also clarified that he had been playing only selected T20 leagues around the world, and was not driven by financial gains.
"First, I announced my retirement from international cricket in May 2018 because I wanted to reduce my workload and spend more time with my wife and young sons. Some have insisted I was motivated purely by money. They are wrong.
“In truth, I have turned down many lucrative offers to play around the world, and have cut the time spent away from home each year from eight months to just over three months.
"I have been massively proud to have played for, and indeed captain, my country on the cricket field. My relationships with the Protea players remain as strong as ever, and I will always be available to support and assist the next generation.
"Lastly, in stating my side of this unpleasant and unnecessary saga, I want to stress my continuing support for the team and the game that has shaped my life and provided me with so many lasting friendships and incredible opportunities."