Former South Africa cricketer Jonty Rhodes is keen on AB de Villiers' inclusion in South Africa's squad at the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2020, but is worried that it might result in the exclusion of a potentially deserving candidate.
De Villiers had announced his retirement from international cricket in May 2018, but since then, there has been talk of a potential return. It was loudest in the build-up to the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019. But it never materialised and de Villiers' absence, alongside Dale Steyn being sidelined with injury, proved decisive as South Africa's campaign quickly fizzled out.
However, prospects of a return were reignited by head coach Mark Boucher most recently, who had called for the former captain to take a call by the end of the Indian Premier League, where he represents Royal Challengers Bangalore. Rhodes, too, is eager to see de Villiers back in the fold, but is aware that it won't be an easy call to make.
You're not breaking any rules, you are setting a slight precedent and you are going to be upsetting a few players who are going to miss out.
"I think it's interesting because it's a tough call," Rhodes told ESPNcricinfo on the sidelines of the Road Safety World Series in Mumbai, where he's representing South Africa Legends. "You want your best team to play, it's also tough on the guys who then miss out. You know AB is a very special player, so then do you set a precedent for a guy like AB de Villiers if he is not playing for South Africa? I mean, why are you selecting him?"
South Africa swept Australia in a three-match ODI series recently, with their young guns Janneman Malan, Heinrich Klaasen and Jon-Jon Smuts delivering the goods. Rassie van der Dussen, who had been rested alongside Faf du Plessis, has also cemented his spot in the side, after making his international debut last year. The core of the T20I side is likely to remain the same and Rhodes recognises that de Villiers' return would put one of those players' spots in jeopardy.
"I suppose a lot of people watch how he performed at the IPL, but just watching him in the Big Bash, he's such a class player; I'm a big fan of AB de Villiers," said the 50-year-old. "I'm just not sure of the precedent. If you want to win a T20 World Cup, you should do anything to win it. You're not breaking any rules, you are setting a slight precedent and you are going to be upsetting a few players who are going to miss out. But a team without AB de Villiers or a team with AB de Villiers… I'd love to see that guy play.
"Although difficult to answer that because I'm not somebody who is missing out, I'm also not from the administration about setting this kind of precedent, so I don't have to make that call. It'll just be great to see AB de Villiers play at a World Cup again for us."
Marnus Labuschagne's maiden ODI 💯 was overturned by half-centuries from JJ Smuts, Kyle Verreyne and Heinrich Klaasen.— ICC (@ICC) March 7, 2020
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South Africa's series win over Australia was their first across formats for almost a year. Rhodes was pleased with the outcome, but realises that a long path lies ahead.
"Firstly, South Africa have just won a series against Australia, it's the first series we've won after a new start," Rhodes said. "I don't think anybody is saying 'all is fixed', so I think there's a lot of work to be done. Mark Boucher is the head coach and knows there's a lot to put in place, but finally, we've won a series."