Former South African cricket captain and arguably the country's finest ever one-day player AB de Villiers offered to come out of retirement to play for the struggling Proteas at the Cricket World Cup - but was turned down by team management.

An explosive report on respected website espncricinfo.com claims de Villiers approached the team last month, shortly before the 15-man squad for the event was announced.

The 35-year-old retired from international cricket in May last year after a career including 9577 runs in 228 matches at an average of 53.50. He also holds the world record for the fastest hundred - his knock of 149 runs against the West Indies in January 2015.

De Villiers was a key figure in the South Africans' World Cup campaign just a month later, a campaign that ended in heartbreak when New Zealand's Grant Elliot hit a six off the penultimate delivery of the semi-final to send the Black Caps into the title decider.

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South African team management, including coach Ottis Gibson and captain Faf du Plessis, reportedly rebuffed an offer from AB de Villiers to play in the World Cup. Photo / Getty
South African team management, including coach Ottis Gibson and captain Faf du Plessis, reportedly rebuffed an offer from AB de Villiers to play in the World Cup. Photo / Getty

According to the report, De Villiers had approached captain Faf du Plessis, coach Ottis Gibson, and chief selector Linda Zondi in May, just 24 hours before the 15-man World Cup squad was announced.

According to the report, de Villiers' request "wasn't even considered" as he "did not fulfil the selection criteria" - believed to be playing in the domestic South African league for the 12 months preceding the tournament - and a recall was deemed to be unfair on some of the current players - including Rassie van der Dussen.

The report comes after the Proteas' disastrous start to the tournament - losing their first three matches - to England, Bangladesh, and India - and needing to win all of their remaining matches to be assured of a semifinal spot this time around.

Despite his international retirement, de Villiers scored 442 runs at 44.20 for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the recent Indian Premier League and will play in the English T20 Blast immediately following the World Cup.

According to espncricnfo.com, de Villiers told reporters last month rumours of a comeback for the World Cup were "very sensitive".