De Villiers retirement comes as a surprise, says Rhodes

Former South Africa cricketer Jonty Rhodes is concerned about South Africa’s team combination, without AB de Villiers, in the World Cup next year.

Former South Africa cricketer Jonty Rhodes said AB de Villiers’ retirement news came as a surprise.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

Jonty Rhodes was on his way to dropping his children to school on Wednesday morning, when the news of AB de Villiers quitting international cricket came in.

The former South Africa cricketer did not initially believe that such a news could be true, but as the entire cricketing fraternity started pouring tributes to de Villiers, Rhodes realised that the superstar was actually on his way out.

And as he spoke to Sportstar, an hour-and-a half after the news broke out, Rhodes was yet to come to terms with it. "This comes as a surprise. I don't know what to say really," Rhodes said.

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Taking a pause, the former South Africa star admitted that with the World Cup a year away, de Villiers' absence will be a big blow for the Proteas. "Any team without AB de Villiers is a big blow, especially just before the World Cup. He has been resting from cricket for sometime, so South Africa has had to deal with AB not in the team. But with regards to who do they play, I don't think that question has been answered," Rhodes said.

"AB is a pretty unique player, you cannot replace him even from the batting point of view. Who will bat at No 4 or 5, I don't know," Rhodes, who played for South Africa in four World Cups, explained.

While Rhodes admitted that there's still a bit of time to get the combination right, he also admitted that it is an uphill task to replace someone like de Villiers. "South Africa has had opportunities of trying out players when AB was resting, but I am not too sure if they would know the answers themselves. South Africa has to get the right combination but obviously you can't replace that kind of player in your line," Rhodes said.

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Like all his predecessors, de Villiers too had time and again stated that he would like to see South Africa win a World Cup. Quite significantly, even the other greats like Jacques Kallis, Allan Donald or Rhodes too could not witness the Proteas lifting the trophy. "Only Gary Kirsten had a hand on the World Cup, even though the Cup went to India," Rhodes joked, but was quick enough to add: "It has been tough, I have played in four and I have coached one in 2007. So, I know it has been tough. The new players don't have the baggage, that's the scenario now. But the problem is five of the teams can win the World Cup, that's how the contest is now."

While he would like to see the trophy coming home, Rhodes had no hesitation in admitting that it would be quite challenging for South Africa, which has had history of chocking at the ICC events. "Australia has won two World Cup consecutively, but I don't think that will be the scenario this time. Even in English conditions, India can beat the teams. New Zealand is there and also there is England at home... so there are so many teams who could lift the Cup, so no matter where South Africa is placed in the rankings, there's no guarantee. It has never been that way. It's disappointing," Rhodes said. But then, he was proud to have been part of South Africa team.

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"After 27 years of sporting isolation, South Africa could play cricket. That's a biggest thing for me," Rhodes said.

With de Villiers bowing out, South Africa will certainly have a huge void to fill.