AB De Villiers shouldn’t keep for South Africa, according to great Graeme Pollock

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AB de Villiers can sing, play guitar and shine at most sports but that doesn’t mean he is the right man to keep wicket for South Africa in back-to-back Tests.

South African batting icon Graeme Pollock has joined Australian keeping great Ian Healy in questioning the wisdom of playing multi-talented de Villiers as a Test wicket-keeper.

The Proteas appear certain to retain de Villiers behind the stumps despite the claims of Thami Tsolekile, considered the best gloveman in the country.

Healy believes de Villiers will face a torrid examination of his skills in back-to-back Tests in Adelaide and Perth over the next fortnight.

“AB de Villiers does not need to be the wicket-keeper – and the team does not need him to be the keeper,” Healy said.

“How many batsmen do you need? You don’t need decent batsmen down to number seven when you have three decent tailenders as well. Vernon Philander is a decent batsman and so is Dale Steyn.

“Adelaide on day four and five is seriously hard work. You need a technique. AB is an extremely natural catcher and mover but you need more than a natural in Adelaide if the wicket starts staying down and gets a bit slow to the quicks and you have to stand up a bit closer than you are comfortable doing.

“And then there is the spin and the chopping up of the wicket. I also reckon their fielding team misses him. In Brisbane they were modest at best.

“Adelaide is a ground where you have to get your head down and really concentrate hard. This is where it could be really challenging for him.”

In the four Tests since de Villiers has taken the gloves from the injured, retired Mark Boucher, de Villiers is yet to better 50 but has scored between 40 and 47 four times at number five in an order that has specialist batting strength down to seven.

“It is the one thing I question about the current side,” said Pollock, regarded as one of cricket’s greatest ever batsmen.

“It is just so difficult for a wicket-keeper to bat in the top five because of all the pressure they are under. AB’s batting is one of the best things the team has going for it and you would not want to see him underperform because he was keeping.

“It’s always been tough for keepers to bat in the top order right back to the 1960s where we had Johnny Waite.”

Fifty-Test star Waite batted everywhere from opener to number nine, recording his best average (46) in the keepers’ customary spot of number seven.

Tsolekile has accepted he will not play this tour.

“I have not seen Thami Tsolekile play but I have seen him warm up and practice and he is doing everything right there,” Healy said.

“If you have got him in the squad why not use him?

“It will be challenging for them when they get to Perth and it is a new bounce and light. The ball starts wobbly and AB has to go back to back or, if they make the change to Tsolekile, they have got a new keeper and the ball is going to be bouncing over his head.

“It is a very interesting part of the game this one.”

Source: The Daily Telegraph – November 19, 2012 / ROBERT CRADDOCK

Stumper AB de Villiers could find himself back in the outfield

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Selecting a specialist wicketkeeper to allow AB de Villiers to focus on his batting is one of a host of selection dilemmas faced by the South African camp before Thursday’s second Test.

Picking reserve keeper Thami Tsolekile would also allow the athletic de Villiers to freshen up the tourists’ occasionally lumbering fielding outfit.

While the hulking Rory Kleinveldt appears certain to make way for a spinner in Adelaide, the Proteas still appear top-heavy in the field.

At 37, Jacques Kallis is understandably slowing down, and while Graeme Smith is superb in the cordon, he is no Jonty Rhodes out of it.

An old cricketing adage says the keeper sets the fielding tone, so selecting the specialist Tsolekile would arguably breathe life into the South Africans.

De Villiers, who did not concede a single bye at the Gabba, was asked in Adelaide yesterday if keeping had taken the edge off his batting.
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“Not at all, no,” he said. “I was in both innings (in Brisbane), I felt like I could score a hundred in both innings, and I had the energy to do so. Unfortunately, I didn’t push through in the first knock and in the second knock, I felt like I could do it.”

De Villiers has been criticised for not passing 50 since taking the gloves from Mark Boucher in July.

But four Tests and six innings is a very small sample to cast so harsh a judgment.

And in that so-called lean run, he has scored 230 runs at 46 _ marginally below the mark set by the greatest keeper/batsman of them all, Adam Gilchrist.

“I’ve only played I think seven or eight innings as a wicketkeeper, and there’s still a lot to come,” de Villiers said.

He showed no ill-effects of a day-and-a-half behind the stumps when he defied the Australian attack deep into the last day in Brisbane.

“I got a lot of value out of both my innings in the first Test match,” he said.

“I thought I played really well in the first one.

“(I) definitely didn’t get bowled out in the first innings, I got myself out, which is always a positive.

“In the second innings, I played under a little bit of pressure.

“Even though it looked like it was a draw through and through, I still felt a bit of pressure out there.

“I had to stick to the basics really well and my technique proved to be solid, so I take a lot of positives out of that.”

Wrist spinner Imran Tahir will likely replace Kleinveldt in Adelaide.

Another option was to replace the injured J P Duminy with Faf du Plessis, a batsman who bowls respectable leg-spin.

Otherwise, batsman Dean Elgar might come in for Duminy. Elgar also bowls left-arm spin, albeit with a modest first-class return of 29 wickets at 48.

Australian batsman Mike Hussey dismissed any suggestion that South Africa struggled in the field, saying any team would be tired after bowling close to 140 overs.

“Even their replacement fielder that came on for JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, is a fantastic fielder and probably just as fast as and as agile as AB de Villiers out in the ring,” Hussey said yesterday.

“I think they’ve got some very good athletes in the field and I don’t think that’s going to be the defining factor between the two teams.”

Source: The Australian – November 19, 2012 / ANDREW FAULKNER

No Boundaries by Sid Mallya, Episode 3 – AB de Villiers

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New plan over AB’s ‘keeping?

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There could be a new twist in the complex issue of senior Proteas Test batsman AB de Villiers’s additional responsibilities as wicketkeeper.

If national coach Gary Kirsten has his way, De Villiers may actually settle in for the long haul as designated gloveman in Tests — and instead surrender that role in the two limited-overs arenas, where he is also busy establishing himself on the captaincy front.

South Africa also intend calling on the advisory services of multiple record-breaking predecessor Mark Boucher to help De Villiers blossom further behind the stumps.

It had initially been widely speculated that De Villiers would more probably ‘keep at Test level only as an interim measure, in the aftermath of veteran Boucher’s international career-ending freak eye injury at the start of the 2012 series in England.

De Villiers immediately took the gloves for the victorious Test series there, and did a decent job in conditions known to be challenging – so much so that extending the role to another key challenge, in Australia, quickly became a logical prospect.

On the negative side, the versatile 28-year-old has been less imposing at the crease since going behind the stumps, and an additional concern is his occasionally flaring back trouble.

But in an interview with Sport24 just ahead of the three-Test challenge in Australia (the second and final part will be published on Tuesday), Kirsten provided some illuminating views on the De Villiers situation.

“The situation is this: we feel that AB at the moment is the best ‘keeper in the country. So if he’s your best gloveman what format do you want to use him in? Definitely in Test cricket.

“The other thing about him is that for a long time now he’s been exposed to international competition so he’s comfortable in that space.

“By his own admission he feels he would like to still improve his ‘keeping; he’s spent a lot of time, worked really hard.

“We will hopefully be able to use Mark (Boucher) also to really assist him on that side, especially when we get back from Australia and there’s a bit of time.

“We really want to engage him in that because AB has stated that he wants to be No 1 Test ‘keeper in the country – which is brilliant because it gives so much balance to the XI; now we can pick a No 7 batsman.”

Kirsten suggested that one-day internationals may become the environment for the Proteas to experiment with a young wicketkeeper.

Although he would not commit to names, presumably the likes of Quinton de Kock and Dane Vilas, both of whom offer known batting oomph, will enter the radar.

“AB is now also captain in both limited-overs formats, so maybe we must actually get creative in ODIs in terms of ‘keeping: that could be the opportunity to look at a young guy. That might be a young ‘keeper’s entry point, a format where we can take a punt on a new player.

“This is not even something I’ve discussed in any (depth) with AB; he is willing in the meantime to do all three formats. But I do think that captaining, batting up front and ‘keeping in 50-overs cricket is tough, perhaps a bit too much so.”

Source: Sport24 – November 5, 2012 / ROB HOUWING

Keeping not behind back issues – AB de Villiers

Category : News

AB de Villiers has denied that keeping wicket affects his back, despite the prognosis that the wear and tear that sidelined him for three weeks was a result of an increased workload. De Villiers wants to continue as the Test gloveman despite his chronic condition and appears conflicted by what its seriousness may mean for his future in a dual role.

The tour of England – in which De Villiers kept in all three Tests, five ODIs and three T20s – and the World T20, where South Africa played five matches, meant he had three months of continuous action. De Villiers’ back took such a beating that Mohammed Moosajee, the team manager, confirmed that if the trip to Sri Lanka had not been a major tournament, de Villiers would have been sent home earlier. Moosajee, who is also a medical doctor, said the cause of the injury was “overuse”.

The national management asked for de Villiers to undergo a 21-day rehabilitation programme with no game time. He completed it last Friday and did not play any Champions League T20 matches, which led to him being declared fit for the match against Australia A that starts on Friday. De Villiers is expected to bat at No. 5 and take the gloves in all three Tests on the tour, and is confident his back will hold up.

“They [the media] have made a massive thing out of it. My back’s not fractured and there are no missing bones. I’ve needed rest,” de Villiers said defiantly in Sydney, before conceding that the condition has lingered for a while and remains a worry.

“It has been an issue for a long time now. It’s something I’ve got to look after and manage really well for the next few years. I don’t believe the keeping has played a massive part in that. I’ve felt a similar kind of thing with my back when I’m fielding. It’s not really the wicketkeeping. I’ve worked even harder in the field. It has been a few years coming now that this back [problem] has been developing into something serious. That’s why I needed a few weeks at home. I’ve got enough issues with my back to have needed that rest.”

If Moosajee’s diagnosis is accurate, de Villiers may be right. The spike in back pain he has experienced is not solely because he is keeping wicket. It is a combination of glovework and batting, which is different to a combination of fielding and batting, that has caused the problem. For as long as he continues to do both, the risk of the recurrence exists.

One of the solutions could be for de Villiers to move down the order, although he is reluctant to accept that. “I don’t believe keeping affects my batting,” he said. The numbers tell a different story. In six Tests in which de Villiers has performed both roles he averages 30.33, compared to 50.42 in the 71 he has not. He has also never scored a century while playing as designated wicketkeeper and has one half-century in the role, which he scored in 2004. On the recent England tour, de Villiers managed a top score of 47.

But he has an explanation for that. “In England, I put in the hard yards and I gave myself the opportunity to go big,” he said. “I just never pushed on from the 40s. I got out a few good deliveries, especially at Lord’s where Steven Finn bowled me a really good ball. It’s almost as if I’m one knock away from people going, ‘Oh, my word – wicketkeeping is doing him so much good’.”

If that doesn’t happen, though, de Villiers insists that he does not mind if his batting is adversely affected for the benefit of the unit as a whole. “I’ve always been big a believer in playing in a successful team. It’s much bigger than the individual. I believe it makes us a stronger side,” he said. “It gives us a better chance to perform really well if I’m taking the gloves; it opens up a spot. JP [Duminy] did really well with Vernon [Philander] there at seven and eight. It looked like the batting line-up would never end.”

Part of de Villiers’ selflessness stems from being part of a team culture that he describes as being better than it ever was. “To have that feeling is something I’ve dreamed of all my life. I felt it in my last year at school when I really felt part of a team,” he said, talking about the schoolboy dream team he was part of at Afrikaans Seuns Hoërskool that included Faf du Plessis, Neil Wagner and Heino Kuhn. That team did not lose a match in two seasons and de Villiers believes South Africa is on the same path, especially as they have not lost a Test away from home since February 2010. “We enjoy each others’ company and each others’ successes.”

Some of those achievements were only possible because of the longer batting line-up, as was evident at Lord’s in August. For that to continue, de Villiers has to manage his back carefully and has worked out how to do that. “The key is to look after my core very well. I’ve got to make sure my abs and core muscles are really strong to look after my back.”

Moosajee said that in the longer term “decisions would have to be made”, implying that de Villiers may not be a permanent replacement for Mark Boucher, no matter how dedicated he is to the task. Should that be the case, de Villiers is confident replacement gloveman Thami Tsolekile, who is part of the squad in Australia, will have his back.

“Absolutely, yes, he will. He has proven that over quite a few years in South Africa. He has been a very handy cricketer. He has won games for his provincial sides,” he said. “It’s nice to have him, with his experience, in the team. There’s no doubt when he gets the opportunity he’ll do well. I think he’s ready.”

Source: CricInfo – November 1, 2012 / FIRDOSE MOONDA