New Delhi, South African cricketer Faf du Plessis says his compatriot AB de Villiers’s sudden retirement in May 2018 from international cricket was “really tough for him”.
de Villiers’s retirement came as a surprise to many as the former South Africa captain had only recently got back into the groove in Test cricket after a spate of injuries kept him away from the longest format of the game. His announcement came on the back of the infamous 2018 Test series against Australia in which he scored 427 runs at an average of 71.16. He was also expected to be an integral part of the South African side for the 2019 World Cup.
de Villiers and du Plessis are known to share a strong friendship that goes back to their days in age-group cricket.
“When AB left, it was really tough for me because I depended a lot on him, as a friend, and obviously as the best player in the team; we needed his skills,” du Plessis told India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin in the latter’s YouTube show ‘DRS with Ash’.
“So that conversation was… when he said that to me, said he was done, he was finished with international cricket, as a friend, my first instinct was ‘I’m here for you, and I’ll support you, if you feel like you’re at the end of your career and you don’t want to do it anymore, then that’s okay – I support that decision 100 per cent’.
“As a captain, I was like – ‘how do we move forward without AB, how do we get the same performances?’ But the friend in me trumped the captain in me. And I just said, ‘we’re going to miss you, are you sure?’ He was like, ‘yeah, I am 100 per cent sure, I don’t want to play international cricket anymore. I don’t have the drive to do it anymore. So I am stopping’. “I respected that immediately and left it there. I never ever after that tried to convince him again, because I respected what he said. Even at times when we desperately needed him.”
The void left by de Villiers was starkly visible in the South African team at the World Cup. They were swept aside in the group stage and in the months after de Villiers retired, Sri Lanka clean swept the Proteas at home in a two-Test series, then lost 3-0 away in India, and were beaten 3-1 by England at home.