“Are we just going to talk about AB de Villiers the whole time? You know we are preparing for West Indies, as well. Feels like its a court case here."
After having lost their first three games, South Africa will be playing for survival when they take on West Indies on Monday in Southampton, but when head coach Ottis Gibson walked in for the pre-match press conference all he was asked about was AB de Villiers.
Gibson was left frustrated and the 50-year-old said de Villiers would have been with the squad right now if he really wanted to play the World Cup.
“Personally I suspect that there are a lot more people wanting AB to be here than AB himself because I believe that if AB wanted to be here, he would be here. But he is wherever he is in the world right now and doing exactly what he wants to be doing. If he wanted to be here, he would be here. That’s how I see it."
The news of Cricket South Africa rejecting de Villiers’ last-minute request of featuring in the World Cup broke out on Thursday and it came after South Africa had already lost three games. De Villiers, who announced his retirement in May 2018, also sent out a tweet saying what’s done is done and the focus should remain on the World Cup.
Gibson said of the situation: “When did I first learn? AB called me. I think it was the morning that the squad was going to be announced. A lot of other things had gone on before that, of course. The statement that was put out said that he was told if he wanted to be available (for the World Cup) that Pakistan and Sri Lanka were tours that he had to make himself available for, and obviously, he didn’t. But I think it was the morning of when the squad was going to be announced that I got told, either the night before or the morning of. I can’t remember."
Gibson revealed it was during the 2019 IPL South Africa captain Faf du Plessis told him about de Villiers’ offer.
“I can’t be sure who knew first or whatever, so I don’t really want to be saying things out of turn. But he spoke to Faf, I think they were in the IPL or whatever and then Faf phoned me to tell me what was going on, and then at some point sometime after that he then phoned me just to ask… to say that he…
“I can’t remember his exact words, but the fact is that he said is there any chance he could come back, and I said, well, I’ll have to obviously speak to Cricket South Africa, and I spoke to the chairman of the selectors, and we all came to the conclusion that he left it too late. A lot had happened since then. We had moved on."
Gibson said his team is more worried about their performance rather than focusing too much on this controversy.
“Look, nobody is shaken up. Nobody has died or anything. Like I said, when we played in South Africa and we won eight of the last ten games or whatever, you guys weren’t asking those sort of questions. You were focusing on the team.
“Of course it’s come as a distraction, but to me more distracting is the level of our playing. We’re not playing as well as we can do, and that’s to me more important than whether AB comes back or not come back. He’s not here, and the guys that are here deserve to be here. They’ve put a lot of work in and we’ve moved on from that as a team.
“I guess the players are disappointed that it’s come out at the time that it’s come out. But when we spoke, when we got together in camp, we spoke about managing distractions, and that was one of the things that we said could come up, so I don’t imagine it’s going to affect the way that we play cricket. We haven’t played very well so far, but yeah, it is disappointing."