London — Graeme Smith has claimed AB de Villiers was talked out of Test retirement by Cricket SA, and has advised him to give up the one-day captaincy in the best interests of his performance at the 2019 World Cup.
"The last year to 18 months has seen AB criticised for ‘picking and choosing’ his tours‚ and I don’t feel that the PR around the issue has been handled at all well by those around him‚" Smith wrote in a column in The Independent on Monday.
"It’s my belief that AB was looking to walk away from the Test game last year at some point, but has been encouraged to carry on by Cricket SA.
"His personal prerogative is ensuring he does all he can to add as much longevity to his international career as possible‚ as well as taking into account the harsh realities of touring."
Smith railed at disappointment in SA and England at De Villiers’s decision not to play in three Test series in 2017.
"What has AB de Villiers got to prove to anyone?" Smith wrote. "He’s a star‚ and those players are often expected to be available all of the time, no matter what the consequences might be personally.
"AB is due to assess his future with Cricket SA later this summer‚ and my advice to him would be to step away from the captaincy and concentrate his energy [on] maintaining his levels in white-ball cricket for the next two years.
"Put simply‚ if that is what’s best for him and the longevity of his career‚ then that is what’s best for South African cricket.
"Those criticising AB‚ and this decision in particular‚ need to ask themselves whether they would rather De Villiers played in the upcoming series and walked away from international cricket in a year‚ or have the opportunity to see him go on and play for his country at another big tournament."
Smith should not be surprised to hear that South Africans have asked themselves exactly that. But with De Villiers having passed 50 only twice in nine innings for SA on their tour of England and having presided as captain over six losses in those nine games‚ Smith might be surprised at the answer.