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AB de Villiers has ruled himself out of the majority of South Africa’s Test series in 2017, but pointed out that he will look to return to the longest format by the end of the year.
De Villiers, who recently recovered from elbow surgery and stepped down as Test captain, will miss the Proteas’ Test series in New Zealand in March, their four-Test series in England in July-August and the two Tests Bangladesh at home in September-October.
The 32-year-old, who last played Test cricket in January 2016, also revealed that he cannot commit himself to anything further than March 2018, but admitted that he is eager to feature in the 2019 World Cup.
“I needed a bit of time away from the game and I need some more,” De Villiers said in Centurion. “Therefore I made myself unavailable for the New Zealand series, but to add to that is also the England series and the Bangladesh series after that. I am hoping to make a comeback with the Titans towards the end of the year in preparation for the series against India and against Australia. That’s the plan. I am not committing to it but I am hoping to make a comeback there in Test cricket.
“My dream plan is to come back for those eight Test matches and that’s all I can say for now. My focus is on the 2019 World Cup but if I feel physically incapable of making it after those two Test series, I will call it a day then. I’ll make that call once we get there. I can’t decide now how I am going to feel in 12 months.”
De Villiers added that sidelining himself for all those Test matches was “not easy”, but conceded that his priorities have begun to change.
“I’m just not ready, that’s the best way I can put it. Priorities have changed over the years, family has changed, my roles in the team have changed over the years,” he said. “Playing three different formats, with the schedule the way it is, all of a sudden felt like the world is on top of my shoulders, and that’s when I felt like I need to start prioritising what I want to achieve in my career, where I want to go and what I feel motivated about. There are a lot of things that have played a role in this decision but I wouldn’t like to think it’s the end.
“I would still like to make a comeback and finish on a high, somehow have a say in us getting that No.1 ranking, which we deserve over the last few months with the way we have played. It’s definitely not the end of the story. I do still have goals and that’s why I didn’t want to make any silly statements about retiring out of Test cricket or anything like that.”
While the dates of South Africa’s Test series against India have yet to be confirmed, it is likely to begin in December. This means that if De Villiers opts to return by the start of that series, he will have not played any Test cricket for 23 months.
“It’s not like I am not going to walk back into the team, it’s very important to note that I am very prepared to come make a comeback at the Titans, score my runs and prove a point that I am still good enough to make the Test side but we will talk about it when we get there towards the end of the year,” he said.
Meanwhile, De Villiers is set to make his international comeback in the third Twenty20 International against Sri Lanka on January 25. With the five-match ODI series starting three days after that, the Pretoria native is confident that he won’t be hindered by his elbow issues.
“It feels pretty good. I am still aware of it. The surgery happened three months ago. The specialist said I will still be aware of it so it’s nothing new or different to what he said is going to happen,” he said. “I can hit all my shots with the same sort of power that I used to hit them. There are one or two shots that I feel it a little bit more than others and I am not going to tell Sri Lanka before we play them which ones they are. Generally, I feel very confident at the wicket. I have been hitting the ball really well with the couple of net sessions I had.”
De Villiers also confirmed that he will play in the Indian Premier League (IPL) this year, but will not take part in any other domestic Twenty20 competition.
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“The IPL, I feel has become part of the ICC set-up. There are a lot of reasons why all of us wouldn’t like to say no to an IPL. I am definitely not committing to anything else at the moment,” he said. “You won’t see me at Big Bash, you won’t see me in any county game or any other T20 tournament around the world, except for playing South Africa and the IPL. I would like to say I am still very committed to South Africa.”