‘It’s a global cricketing issue to keep players inspired for all three formats’: AB de Villiers

A file photo of AB de Villiers of South Africa.

A file photo of AB de Villiers of South Africa.
| Photo Credit: Getty Images

New Delhi South Africa great Ab de Villiers feels it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep players “inspired” for all three formats amid the punishing schedule, creating a pressing need for cricket boards and cricketers to have honest communication over the latter’s preferred choice of formats.

The 38-year-old, who shocked the cricketing world with his international retirement in 2018, said his playing career too could have been managed better. Three years later, he retired from all forms of cricket.

He left the game to spend more time with family, something which has become a luxury for an all-format modern cricketer. Considering the ever-crowded international calendar and mushrooming of T20 leagues around the world, playing all three formats has become impossible without taking frequent breaks in between.

England Test captain Ben Stokes was forced to retire from ODIs last year as he could not go on giving his best across formats. “That’s a tough question,” De Villiers told PTI when asked about the need for picking formats amid the relentless scheduling.

“Because I don’t want to be the guy to just say give up a format or two. And once again, it’s a global cricketing issue at the moment to keep the players inspired to play all formats of the game for their countries.” De Villiers believes the players’ careers could be extended if they were clear about their ambitions across formats. He also expects the cricketing boards to clearly communicate to the players over where they stand in their scheme of things.

“But I do think there’s room with the various boards around the world to pinpoint players, to have community discussions and communication early on in players’ careers, to understand what they want to achieve, first of all, and secondly, where they fit in with regards to the cricket in their own country to represent the country internationally.

“But also to be happy to play leagues around the world. And to gain experience, it’s invaluable. We spoke about it earlier, players like SKY (Suryakumar), Dewald Brevis and myself, the way we took our games to the next level, largely because of these leagues.

“So ultimately, that is what we want to achieve. If it’s not achievable. And if there’s a clear sign that a player is maybe a bit weak in one format, or is maybe not as inspired to achieve milestones to go a long way in one or two formats, then yes, but that communication needs to happen.

“And I think during my career communication could have been better from my side, but also from the Cricket South Africa side to make sure that we plan accordingly. So it comes down to communication,” said ‘Mr.360’.

De Villiers is part of the SA20 commentary panel. The inaugural competition has taken an eight-day break to accommodate the ODI series betweens hosts South Africa and England, highlighting the scheduling challenges faced by boards.

“I don’t think it is (break) ideal to be honest. So difficult to get the scheduling right and keep everyone happy. We want to see countries take each other on. It is the ultimate form of viewership but with all these leagues the excitement is there and it is financially healthy.

“It is very difficult for the ICC and everyone to make sure that the scheduling benefits everyone. I honestly don’t know what the answer is,” said de Villiers.

‘Doubt if we will ever see Indian players in overseas leagues’

The BCCI doesn’t allow Indian players to feature in overseas T20 leagues and it is not going to change in the foreseeable future. De Villiers sees a lot of merit in BCCI’s stance.

“I would love to see it happening very soon but you don’t see Indian players being released for leagues around the world. So I don’t know if that will ever change. And rightfully so. I mean, the BCCI has a very clear plan with the players, they want to win World Cups.

“They want to make sure the players have the exposure they need and obviously there’s no league better than than the IPL. Once some of the leagues maybe knock on their door, you never know,” he added.

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