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‘It was unethical to the players in the squad’ – Linda Zondi on why AB de Villiers wasn’t allowed to return for 2019 World Cup

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AB de Villiers had announced his retirement from international cricket in May 2018

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‘It was unethical to the players in the squad’ – Linda Zondi on why AB de Villiers wasn’t allowed to return for 2019 World Cup

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SportsCafe Desk

10/22/2021

Linda Zondi, South Africa’s former chief-selector, opened up on the exclusion of AB de Villiers’ from South Africa’s 2019 World Cup squad, stating it would’ve been "unethical to the players already selected". De Villiers had expressed his desire to return from retirement to participate in the event.

AB de Villiers had rather surprisingly announced his retirement from all forms of international cricket in May 2018, leaving a major void in the South Africa setup a year before the 2019 World Cup in England and Wales.

Notably, the former South Africa captain had expressed his desire to return a month before the marquee event, through the then skipper and childhood friend Faf du Plessis, but was overlooked from the eventual squad.

Linda Zondi, who was South Africa’s chief selector then, opened up on the entire episode, as he appeared before Cricket South Africa's (CSA) Social Justice and National-Building (SJN) committee recently. He stated that de Villiers’ selection would’ve been “unethical” to the players who were already a part of the squad.

"When AB took a break [in 2017], he didn't share the information with me," Zondi said, reported ESPNcricinfo. "I contacted him and said I wasn't happy with what you have done and he apologised. Then there was the World Cup, which was a massive story. The captain [Faf du Plessis] came to me and said AB would like to be included in the World Cup. I turned it down because AB had earlier come to me and said he wanted to retire and I told him [then] we need you in the World Cup in England. 

“If there are certain series you miss, we can work with that. I said I am happy to manage your time and you can retire after the World Cup. He said no, he wants to retire. Then, Faf came and said that AB wanted to return. I turned it down. I thought it was unethical to the players who were part of the squad."

South Africa managed just nine wins in the round-robin stage at the 2019 World Cup, and failed to qualify for the semi-finals round for the first time after 2003.

Zondi also threw light on the non-selection of Khaya Zondo during the 2015 tour of India, which had become a major topic of discussion after former selector Hussein Manack claimed that it was the then captain de Villiers, who had blocked the middle-order batsman’s selection.

"What happened on the day was, because I wasn't there, the selector on tour became the final decision-maker," Zondi said. "I'm glad Hussein came and confessed that he had pressure put on him. I was clear with him that I was very unhappy with the decision.

Zondi recalled that Manack had reached out to the selection panel on the previous evening and it was decided that Zondo would play. 

"He contacted us the night before saying JP is injured, so we will need a replacement,” he revealed. “Secondly, we have David Miller who is not in form. The first thing we had to deal with was to fly in a replacement from South Africa. Because even if Khaya played, we still needed to have a back-up.

"We said fine, it's not a difficult situation. Khaya must play. Khaya had been to India. He was in form. He was a batter, and the spot was in his position. He would not have been thrown in the deep end. It was a no-brainer. Khaya must play. It was made clear to Hussein that Khaya must play. In the morning, I turned on the TV and I saw Khaya was not playing.

"He [Hussein] shared the information with the captain AB de Villiers and according to Hussein, AB was unhappy. He sensed AB put him in a corner. He felt Dean Elgar, because of experience, should play, and Hussein gave in. When he gave in, he didn't come back to me and said we are changing our decision. AB knew that I was a full-time convenor. 

“At any stage, if the captain was not happy with the selection, he should have contacted me. The CEO [Haroon Lorgat] was on tour and the CEO himself entertained the discussion. The captain didn't come to me, the CEO didn't come to me. When the team came back to South Africa, I made sure the right process was followed and Khaya played in the next series."

AB de Villiers aggregated 20,014 runs from 114 Tests, 228 ODIs and 78 T20Is combined, which is the second best for South Africa in international cricket after Jacques Kallis’ 25,534. His last international appearance came at the Wanderers during the 2018 home Test series against Australia.

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