Kohli bats for beleaguered de Villiers in World Cup row

Updated July 15, 2019

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“It’s been unfortunate to see this happen to you,” says Kohli. — AFP/File
“It’s been unfortunate to see this happen to you,” says Kohli. — AFP/File

LONDON: India captain Virat Kohli has pledged his support behind former Proteas captain A.B. de Villiers, claiming “it’s been unfortunate to see this happen to you”.

De Villiers broke his silence on Friday, speaking for the first time about the media storm that broke out during the Proteas’ World Cup campaign regarding his proposed comeback on the eve of the team announcement.

De Villiers, of course, retired from international cricket last year, and only plays T20 cricket around the world. The 35-year-old and Kohli are long-time team-mates at Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League.

“My brother you are the most honest and committed man I know. It’s been unfortunate to see this happen to you. But know that we stand with you and believe in you. Seeing people enter your personal space has been sad to see and uncalled for,” Kohli, whose India team got knocked out of the World Cup on Wednesday, posted on social media.

De Villiers vehemently denounced reports that he was “motivated purely by money” and that “They are wrong. In truth I have turned down many lucrative offers to play around the world”.

De Villiers continued in a lengthy statement that it was he that was “privately asked whether ‘the door was still open’ for me to play in the World Cup.”

He stressed that “I was asked. I did not offer”.

A major issue surrounding ‘AB-gate’ was the timing of the reports emerging in the media. The entire saga erupted immediately after the Proteas lost to India in Southampton — their third successive defeat of the World Cup.

It placed immense stress on Proteas captain Faf du Plessis, who was battling to pull his team together and now also having to field questions relating to De Villiers’ proposed availability.

Du Plessis and de Villiers have been friends since their school days and even have a business together. The whole situation placed their ‘friendship’ under intense scrutiny although du Plessis stated that “AB and I are still good friends”.

De Villiers has now sent out a similar message although he believes there are darker forces behind the release of the initial report.

“Faf and I have been friends since we were at school together and, two days before the World Cup squad was announced, I contacted him for a chat.

“I certainly did not try to force my way into the World Cup squad on the eve of the tournament, and did not expect to be included. There was no burning issue from my side, and no sense of injustice.

“Then, out of the blue, elements of our private conversation were disclosed to the media, and distorted to cast me in the worst possible light.

“The story was not leaked by me, or anybody associated with me, or by Faf. Maybe someone wanted to deflect criticism. I don’t know.”

Cricket SA officials have stated the matter is ‘closed’ and offered no further explanations after selection chief Linda Zondi, coach Ottis Gibson and du Plessis all commented on the issue last month.

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2019