South Africa in New Zealand 2016-17 March 5, 2017

De Villiers and Guptill take their leave of absence


AB de Villiers was in top form during the one-day series but New Zealand won't have to worry about him the Tests © Getty Images

In a one-day series dominated by bowlers, two batsmen in particular stood out. AB de Villiers led the run scoring and Martin Guptill recovered from a hamstring injury to play perhaps his best innings. But neither of them will feature in the upcoming three-Test series between their two countries, albeit for different reasons.

De Villiers has opted out of the series - and most of Test cricket for 2017 - as part of a workload management program while Guptill has not been selected despite his finding form, after he lost his Test place late last year, and the contest may be poorer without them.

"Anybody, any coach, would want AB de Villiers in their side but he has made a decision and we respect that decision," Russell Domingo, the South Africa coach, said. "He plays such a lot of cricket around the world, at such a high level all the time and he has got a young family so you can understand those decisions. We all definitely wanted him to stay but it's a decision he has made for family life."

De Villiers, who has had lengthy breaks over the last eight months with an elbow problem, appeared close to his best in the last three weeks. His 262 runs came at 87.33 and included two half-centuries but that was not enough to change his mind about his Test hiatus. "I can't wait to get home. I am really looking forward to get to my family. A three-week tour works really well. A couple of weeks at home before more cricket starts again is coming at a great time for me," de Villiers said. "I will really miss the boys and I will watch the cricket but it's a great time for me to get back and rest the mind."

He will have the next few weeks off before joining up with the Royal Challengers Bangalore at the IPL and then reuniting with his national team-mates as they prepare for the Champions Trophy - a tournament de Villiers "believes in my heart" they can win. Even if they don't, he will see the competition as a valuable marker for his ultimate goal of lifting the 2019 World Cup, which will take priority over all other cricket for now. "He needs to freshen up and he needs to try and win the World Cup in 2019 - that's a big ambition for him. It's his decision and we respect it," Domingo said.

Without de Villiers, South Africa have already won three Test series, against New Zealand, Australia and Sri Lanka, and although they will miss their star batsman, Domingo is confident they can cope without him "We know when he is here, he gives absolutely everything, there's no doubt about it. He will be missed but we've gone through a series against Sri Lanka and a series in Australia without him so the game goes on. As good as anyone is, the game goes on," Domingo said. "Somebody will in time get to de Villiers' level. When that is we don't know, but someone will get there at some stage."

South Africa's Test middle-order is made up of JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock with Theunis de Bruyn included as a reserve batsmen. Of those, only Bavuma has struggled of late but he found some form domestically during February with two fifties in his last four matches.

Those numbers pale in comparison to Guptill's but he was never going to be considered for a Test recall after being dropped at the start of the season, so while the unbeaten 180 reignited the debate the decision had been made. New Zealand coach Mike Hesson explained Guptill could be tried in the middle-order, where Henry Nicholls is currently establishing himself, but will first have to stake his claim in domestic cricket with Auckland.

Guptill had a reputation for being loose outside the off stump and, as a result, is a favourite for the South Africa attack. In Tests, no bowler has dismissed him more than the absent Dale Steyn (six times in seven matches) and Vernon Philander is encroaching on that, having accounted for Guptill four times in six matches. Guptill has only scored one fifty against South Africa in 13 Tests innings but his two ODI hundreds - coming in the space of three innings - and one T20 century have served as enough warning of what he can do. Domingo was not complaining that they will not face him again over the next three weeks.

"You always feel maybe you can bowl to the rest of the guys [in one-day cricket] whereas Martin is a guy who can dominate you straight away. Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor will try and get themselves in but Martin is a guy who, from ball one, can take you apart," Domingo said. "He is a hell of a player and that was one of the best one-day hundreds I've seen. His ball striking is phenomenal. I know his Test record hasn't been as good as he would have hoped for but we always think a team without Martin Guptill is probably not the same."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Md. Rakibuzzaman on March 8, 2017, 1:19 GMT

    Whatever the reason I would love to watch AB in every game. A fit AB is not in the team is so disappointing. Cannot hide the frustration. Cricket has really changed these days. Money come ahead of the game. I am not counting family issue. Because it was there forever.

  • Cricmj Makes on March 6, 2017, 13:47 GMT

    @Brokensaint. Please check the SA Test batting averages for the past 6 months. Post

  • Pride on March 6, 2017, 11:57 GMT

    I would understand if a player wants to take a break from ODIs or T20s but not tests. I don't think he deserves to be selected whenever he decides that he now wants to play tests.

  • Brokensaint on March 6, 2017, 4:50 GMT

    de Villiers has played non stop cricket for 10 odd years so the only player to really judge his body is de Villiers himself. obviously I want him to play every game there is as I want him to go on and be the greatest batsman that ever played the game but if his body is not keeping up with the demands then he needs to rest. he still has another 4 years in him if he wants to so I really hope he plays all of it until he retires but don't knick a guy if you don't know his reasons

  • Yasein on March 6, 2017, 2:51 GMT

    @ALEXK400 Yea I expecr several batting implosions on our end

  • GeoffreysMother on March 5, 2017, 21:18 GMT

    QDZY - for those of us who prefer to watch test cricket to the shorter game it is sad that AB has opted out the tour but for those of us who have raised families it is understandable that he puts the security of IPL money in front of playing test cricket. Perhaps, in the back of his mind, is that he really didn't do that well against England in his last test series in SA and that maybe he no longer has the technique or the mindset to play long test innings. If so then an examination by Boult and Southee on challenging wickets followed by Broad, Anderson and Woakes might damage his reputation. Better, more lucrative and maybe more appreciated by many , for him to be slapping some Indian bowlers for 'maximums' on flat IPL wickets. It is a shame though: I shall be at Hamilton for the test there and at his best De Villiers was a sheer joy to watch.

  •   Cricinfouser on March 5, 2017, 19:33 GMT

    I don't understand you QDZY? Seems like you have no clue what loading management is in turns of games played over the years you really don't respect AB DE Villiers & his personal decision and his body,the man knows his body better then anybody including you.He made it clear to the world how things has change for him and his family and what is important and how he wants to play his cricket for 2017 he could have easily retired from Test cricket but he was rather WISE and think it thru the man has lot of wisdom.Playing over 100 test matches 200 1days + T20s.Its not fair to compare other players in the team to him and say what if they want to take a break or rest to.. they haven't played 100 test + yet to make those dicisions,only Amla player 100 test behind AB..To talk about old player of past in SA they haven't played T20 cricket apart from Kallis which he played at the end of his career and he also retired from test match cricket to look after his body.AB is greatest 1day player.

  • Alex on March 5, 2017, 18:01 GMT

    I can see 3-0 for SA . Systematic destruction for NZ will happen. NZ might have beat Pak but SA with faf provides stability that every team need so other players can leverage of that energy.

  • Brokensaint on March 5, 2017, 12:23 GMT

    qdzy I think all the supporters would love if duminy takes a leave of absence. I would pay him to take a break. qdzy unless you have played at thus level it's extremely shortsighted him when he is away for 9 months in a year.

  • lambrs9680839 on March 5, 2017, 11:21 GMT

    No one disagrees that Guppy struggled as an opener in Test cricket, but why was he never tried down the order? It is not as if NZ is awash with class batsmen that puts him out of contention. Given his ODI record against top attacks it seems that he has to be included in the Test side. He is one of the few batsmen in the NZ lineup who can really dominate an attack - and we need someone like that in the lower middle order now that McCullum has retired.

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