AB de Villiers stepped down as South Africa’s Test captain in December 2016 and played his last Test in January 2016, against England. © BCCI

AB de Villiers stepped down as South Africa’s Test captain in December 2016 and played his last Test in January 2016, against England. © BCCI

AB de Villiers’s continued absence from the South African Test team, while okayed by everyone that matters, has clearly not gone down well with the entire cricket community in the country, and Herschelle Gibbs put his anger out in public via a series of tweets on Friday (August 11).

Gibbs, who played 90 Tests, 248 One-Day Internationals and 23 Twenty20 Internationals during a successful career for South Africa between 1996 and 2010, accused de Villiers of “disrespecting the team and the game”, and found a kindred soul in Ashwell Prince, a former colleague of both Gibbs and de Villiers.

De Villiers, who played his last Test in January 2016, was missed as South Africa suffered a 3-1 series defeat in England recently, the first time they had lost in the country since 1998.

De Villiers, 33, stepped down as South Africa’s Test captain in December 2016 and made himself unavailable for the Test series against New Zealand in January this year. Saying more than once that his focus was on the 2019 World Cup, which he was desperate to win, de Villiers has said that he had been forced to ration his appearances, and the longest format was the best one to bunk keeping in mind his bigger ambitions. However, de Villiers has refused to retire from Test cricket.

Speaking to Sports24 after the England defeat, Faf Du Plessis, the current South Africa Test captain, said that de Villiers had “earned the right to do whatever he wants to”. But that didn’t go down well with Gibbs or Ashwell Prince, who played 66 Tests, 52 ODIs and one T20I in the 2000s and was later a national selector.

“Never thought I’d see this,” tweeted Gibbs in reaction to du Plessis’s statement.

Gibbs also compared de Villiers’s situation to that of Jacques Kallis, the talismanic former South African allrounder, saying that Kallis kept on playing despite the requirements on his body and time and never disrespected the team.

Prince agreed with Gibbs, saying it was a “ridiculous statement” from du Plessis, and wondered whether Hashim Amla would also be allowed to take the de Villiers route if he wanted.

Prince also hit back at Paul Harris, the former South African left-arm spinner who played 37 Tests and three ODIs, after he tweeted, “As ex players why not pick up the phone and call him instead of having a go on Twitter.”

Since making his Test debut in 2004, de Villiers has scored 8074 runs in 106 Tests – including 21 centuries – at an average of 50.46.