AB de Villiers dismissed suggestions that he is on the verge of Test retirement, hinting that he might fill in as the leader of the South African Test side for a longer period. Speaking after the third Test against England, which South Africa lost by seven wickets, de Villiers said he never contemplated quitting the five-day format and that his issue was keeping himself fresh through a hectic cricketing calendar.
"I was never thinking of leaving Test cricket at all. I was just to find a way to rest a little bit throughout the year. Lots of thoughts have been crossing my mind but this [defeat] has got absolutely no influence on that. Playing on the cricket pitch has never been an issue for me, it's just a matter of keeping myself fresh. It's really tough to stay on top of your game if you play up to 12 months a year. I just have to try and find a balance to keep my fight going and keep that skill level up," de Villiers said.
South Africa's loss to England in the third Test resulted in the hosts losing the series and with it their No. 1 ranking in the five-day format. While admitting that the Proteas missed key players like Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, de Villiers said he has belief in the younger lot.
"We miss Dale, there's no excuse with that. We miss Vern, we miss Kallis as well. But this is the team we have and the team I believe in. It's up to the eleven here and the eleven that get picked at Centurion to do something special. That's the way past players like [Jacques] Kallis and [Graeme] Smith did it. They had some tough times and they found a way to get through it to get to the top of the rankings. We've now got to find a way with what we have to become the best.
"There are lots of different players. We're still up there in the rankings, but that means absolutely nothing. I believe our form of late has been really poor and it will take something really special to turn it around. It's important for us to try and find that mould of cricket we're looking to play. We're a little bit offbeat at the moment, that's for sure.
"The youngsters will learn a lot. Not long ago I was that youngster in the team, going through ups and downs at Test level, personally and as a team a while back. You learn a lot from that. It's important just to survive and for a youngster to get through this and not to give up and gain a lot of experience. If guys like Kagiso [Rabada] and Hardus [Viljoen] and a few others get through this patch, they'll become much better cricketers," de Villiers said.
Stuart Broad superb bowling performance (6-17) resulted in South Africa being bowled out for 83 in their second innings. Broad ripped the heart out of the South African batting, taking the first five wickets for one run in the space of 31 balls after lunch.
"They kept applying the pressure. Every time we looked like starting a good partnership, they took a good catch or bowled a good delivery, and it just kept going like that. I guess when momentum is on your side, things tend to happen that way. Credit to them for creating that kind of pressure," de Villiers said of England's performance.
"I'm still the kind of guy that will get myself going for that last Test match, and get the team going. I felt we were in the game lots of times throughout the Test match and just didn't grab those opportunities. There were quite a few opportunities that we had throughout the match and one was in the first innings. We were getting a lot of partnerships going, a lot of guys got in. There was a great opportunity to get 400-plus and we didn't take that. 400-plus on this wicket is very tough to play against. Unfortunately we missed that trick," de Villiers said.
The South African captain praised Broad for his terrific bowling display and mentioned that the conditions were ideal for the England pacer to prosper. "That's some of the best bowling I've faced from their whole unit. Conditions suited them really well and they made full use of that. They asked a lot of questions, right throughout our innings. They didn't ask as many questions in the first innings and that's where I thought we missed a trick.
"This time around they were spot on, they were a little bit fuller in their lengths and they asked questions all the time. The ball was moving around a lot, but they showed some good skill and you have to give them credit for that, especially Broady for getting the results," de Villiers said.