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