AB de Villiers “absolutely” wants to lead South Africa in the 2019 World Cup despite being part of another failed campaign in an ICC event because he thinks he can be the man to oversee a change in South Africa’s fortunes.
“Because I’m a good captain. And I can take this team forward. I can take us to win a World Cup, I believe,” de Villiers said, after the defeat against India at The Oval. “I believed the same thing over here in this tournament and the last one here but that’s what I believe. I love doing it.”
De Villiers has captained South Africa’s limited-overs’ sides since 2011 and while he gave up the T20 reins in 2013, he remains the ODI skipper. Overall, he has played in 13 ICC events, dating back to the Champions Trophy in 2006, and captained in five but his first-hand knowledge of South Africa’s litany of unsuccessful attempts to take home a trophy has not provided him with any answers to explain why they have yet to come out on top.
“We’ve covered all the bases. There’s no doubt about that,” he said. “We’ve had camp after camp. And we’ve worked really, really hard on the nets, and we back each other, we trust each other, and for some reason, things like that just keep happening.”
Although de Villiers admitted that it was a “very poor batting performance” that saw South Africa slip from 76 without loss to 191 all out against India, he denied that they panicked.
“I felt the team was pretty composed today. I don’t think we lost it there with composure. A few errors of judgement, a few mistakes out there cost us badly today,” he said. “It’s not going to do with composure in my eyes. I felt pretty calm with the team all the time. We played some good shots and then just a couple of bad, errors of judgement out there cost us.”
And he did not attribute those mistake to any mental bogey-men but mused that maybe the nature of multi-team tournaments demanded too much of South Africa. “It wasn’t a mental thing. We just didn’t play well,” he said. “Tournaments are a little bit different. You play different teams all the time on different venues, so it’s a big challenge. No one said it’s going to be easy. But we do come up short for some reason in tournaments like this, and it is pretty sad.
“I can’t explain to you exactly what happens. I think you saw it out there today. It was just a very poor batting performance. It has nothing to do with the energy or the intensity or the belief in the team. We felt we had a great chance today. We came here to win the game of cricket. And then we just unraveled as a side out there.”
The manner of that unraveling – the speed and the shot selection and the sheer stun-value of three run-outs by one of the most athletic teams on the international circuit — is what disappointed de Villiers most. “The way we lost was the most disappointing part of it. We were really in a good position there with the batting end early on, and through soft dismissals we lost our way and that was the part for me that hurt the most,” he said.
Pain is something South Africa, and de Villiers, have experienced a lot of. At the moment it is preventing him from being able to form a clear picture of where things went wrong and how they can be done better next time, when he intends to lead again.
“I’m not thinking about the next one now,” he said. “We just sort of want to go get through this hurt now, because it’s hurting quite bad. I’ve not thought about what we are going to think about our next tournament.
De Villiers would not be drawn into discussing whether he thinks anything should change before the next competition, except his own insistence that he will remain captain. Pushed on whether he saw a need for “more radical shake-up” de Villiers said: “That’s a question that can only be answered by people who are in control of making radical decisions. That’s not my decision. We’ll have to wait and see what people out there want to decide or whoever is in control of making those kind of decisions. I don’t think we are a bad cricket team.”
They’re not. South Africa came into this event ranked No.1 in the world. For that reason, perhaps, de Villiers does not think that they getting further away from eventually winning an event. “I must be very honest with you – not a lot of people believe me but I feel it’s pretty close. I don’t think it feels far away,” he said. “It’s very difficult to say that after a performance like this, but that’s what I believe in my heart. I believe we’re the very close unit. There’s more than enough talent, and we’ve just got to get it right when it matters most.”