South African middle-order batsman Rassie van der Dussen was “not surprised” to hear AB de Villiers wanted to play in the 2019 World Cup but believes it would have set a “difficult precedent” if the former captain was included. It would also likely have meant van der Dussen himself would not be at the tournament.
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“It’s not necessarily the best question to ask to me because I am involved in it but had he not retired it definitely would have influenced me directly,” he said. “But you can’t, on the day before the announcement and a team that’s been working for something for year and even longer than a year, come and say, ‘I want to make a comeback now’. I am not saying he was wrong or he was right; so don’t misquote me. But it would have set a difficult precedent – not necessarily a wrong one, because it’s still AB, he is still one of the best players in the world – I just think it was handled maybe not in the correct way from his side.”
South Africa’s squad was informed of de Villiers’ desire to come out of retirement at their pre-tournament team camp, which included scaling the Table Mountain and training at the High Performance Centre in Pretoria. Though some, like Kagiso Rabada, have given little away about their opinion on the matter, van der Dussen explained de Villiers had been given options to make a comeback, which he refused.
“As I believe it, Ottis [Gibson, the head coach] and Faf [du Plessis, the captain] gave him opportunities to, say, ‘Let’s manage your workload going into the World Cup because we want you to play a World Cup’. He had a fair chance to manage that and he said no and that he is happy to retire and that’s fair enough. And Faf accepted it, Ottis accepted it and they stood by it,” van der Dussen said.
Zondi, Gibson and du Plessis have all confirmed they told de Villiers he could have time off but would need to play some part in the series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka which took place earlier this year to stay in contention. Van der Dussen made his ODI debut in the series against Pakistan and impressed. Van der Dussen scored five half-centuries in his first nine ODI innings to earn his place in the World Cup squad and, at the tournament, has so far been South Africa’s most convincing performer with the bat.
“Do I have to replace him? I don’t feel I have to. Can I play match-winning innings for my country? I believe I can”
Van der Dussen is South Africa’s second-highest run-scorer with 113 runs from his three innings, one run behind Quinton de Kock. He has labelled the tournament the ultimate test of a player’s ability, which is why he understood de Villiers’ interest in coming back.
“I wasn’t surprised [that he wanted to come back],” van der Dussen said. “The media and the press reports quite a lot on AB and the things he’s said and how his last year has gone. I wasn’t surprised that he would want to make a comeback on the world’s biggest stage. That’s the thing all the biggest players in sport have in common. They want to perform when the pressure is on and when the stage is at its biggest.”
Despite knowing he may have missed out if de Villiers had been accommodated, van der Dussen does not think the situation has put extra pressure on him to put in de Villiers-esque performances but hinted that if the situation demands it, maybe he could do just that.
“In terms of did it affect me? No. I am quite happy to be mentioned in the same sentence as AB. He is obviously one of the best there has ever been,” van der Dussen said. “So do I have to replace him? I don’t feel I have to. Can I play match-winning innings for my country? I believe I can. Is that what he did? Yes, he did. It didn’t have as big an effect as I think people would like to believe it had.”