South Africa coach Ottis Gibson wants the focus to turn from AB de Villiers back to the cricket, as his team prepares to take on West Indies in a game it really cannot afford to lose. Speaking in Southampton on Saturday, Gibson patiently answered questions and revealed details on the de Villiers controversy. "Personally I suspect there are a lot of people wanting AB to be here than AB himself," Gibson said. "If he wanted to be here he would be here."
Gibson's 20-minutes-plus media briefing at the Aegeas Bowl was dominated by de Villiers, with South African reporters questioning Gibson about the sequence of events that preceded the news broken by ESPNcricinfo on Thursday, of de Villiers offering to come out of retirement.
During the course of the press conference, Gibson asked with some humour: "Are we going to talk about this all the time? Or are we going to prepare for the West Indies game?" He was patient with the questioning and civil with his replies, saying that during the South African pre-World Cup training camp in Cape Town, the players were told in passing of the ABD offer, and the possibility of the news coming up during the tournament, and told to tackle it like they would other "distractions".
The earliest overture from de Villiers was made to South Africa captain Faf du Plessis during the IPL and matters took their course from there.
"He spoke to Faf, they were in the IPL or whatever, and then Faf phoned me to tell me what was going on, and then some time after that, he phoned me to ask, to say that he… I can't remember his exact words, but he said that is there any chance he could come back." Gibson's conversation took place just before the World Cup team was announced and his reply to de Villiers was that he would have to speak to Cricket South Africa and the selectors. Gibson said his "immediate reaction" to de Villiers at the time was that "you've left it too late. That's what I said - you can quote me on that - that's what I said."
CSA and the chairman of selectors had come a similar conclusion, Gibson said, "A lot had happened since then [de Villiers' retirement] - we'd moved on." De Villiers was also told, if he wanted to be available for the World Cup, then he would have to make himself available for the home series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, "and he didn't." When he heard of de Villiers' offer for the first time, from du Plessis, did captain and coach talk about wanting to get de Villiers back?
"No. I think we decided already that he left it too late. The door was open till December and after that to come into the piece … he knew that if he really wanted to, he knew that those ten games against Pakistan and Sri Lanka were vitally important for us, since from March to World Cup we won't have any more crickets. He knew that, and again, he has made his choice."