Ottis Gibson has challenged his South Africa players to banish the shadow of AB de Villiers hanging over their World Cup campaign when they take on West Indies on Monday.
News that Cricket South Africa refused an offer from their second-highest ODI run-scorer to reverse his international retirement has left the authorities under scrutiny, given the Proteas’ record of three defeats from their opening three matches.
Selection convener Linda Zondi said “morals and principles” were behind the decision to ignore de Villiers’ offer, continued talk of which appeared to rile head coach Gibson when he faced the media in Southampton on Saturday.
“Are we going to talk about this all the time?” Gibson said. “Or are we going to prepare for the West Indies game?”
The game in question has taken on must-win status for the South Africans, whose defeat to India on Wednesday came off the back of similar results against England and Bangladesh.
And Gibson hopes the ongoing focus on de Villiers will act as a spur for his batsmen, who have registered jsut three half-centuries between them in the tournament to date.
“I would want them to flip it the other way and show everyone that they deserve to be here,” he said. “It’s only us that can change it.
All that’s important is that we should all focus on supporting the team at the World Cup. There is a long way to go and I believe the boys can still go all the way #ProteaFire
— AB de Villiers (@ABdeVilliers17) June 6, 2019
“We can talk about AB all we want but he’s not here and he cannot help us. Only we can help us. We have to keep believing in ourselves and in the people who are here to do well in the tournament.
“Nobody’s shaken up, nobody’s died or anything… When we played in South Africa we won eight of the last 10 games. You guys weren’t asking those questions then.
“Personally I suspect there are a lot of people wanting AB to be here more than AB himself…I can’t recall in recent history a team picking a guy that’s retired.”