De Villiers pulls out of NZ series, fuels Test retirement speculation

Johannesburg: Fuelling talk that he might call it a day in Test cricket, South African star batsman AB de Villiers pulled out of the upcoming series in New Zealand in March, although saying this was not a retirement call.

“Not yet. I’m not there yet,” de Villiers was quoted as saying by ESPN on Tuesday.

“The reason being that I just need to settle things in my head. Over the last few years something has come to mind, which is the fact that we haven’t won a World Cup yet. And for me to make it to the 2019 World Cup, I can’t really be serious in every format.

“So I’ve made myself unavailable for the New Zealand Test series. I will be there for the ODIs, and I’m definitely not retiring from Test cricket because I have plans to come back at some stage,” he added.

De Villiers said he wanted to focus on the 2019 World Cup ahead of everything else at present.

“For me, for now the most important thing is the 2019 World Cup. I want to make sure we get there, I want to make sure we lift that trophy. Obviously there are other factors that play a role like family and time away from home, but the main reason for me is that World Cup and I feel that if I play all formats all the time, then mentally and physically I won’t be at my best.”

He had earlier told South African radio station 702 that he was “not retiring out of Test cricket.”

De Villiers has recovered from his elbow injury to make his comeback in his side’s domestic 50-over competition and is scheduled to play his first match on Sunday.

“My main aim is to get to that 2019 World Cup and I am going to do everything possible to get there. It’s important to play the other formats but mentally and physically I need to be in a good space come the 2019 World Cup and that’s what I am aiming for. I know its still a long way away and it’s all about managing that really well in order for me to get there,” he said.

“I am going to have to make certain choices. It’s not easy for me. I have always been the go-ahead guy, the team man, never want to miss a game for South Africa and I still do, but the schedules these days, it’s really tough to play all formats, especially at the age of 32, when most cricketers don’t go past the age of 35.

“If you do the math, it takes me to 2019, 2020 at the most. Hopefully by then I will still be fit and be there to lift the trophy with the boys,” the dashing right hander said.