Many in the cricket world have backed South Africa for making the right move in allegedly snubbing AB de Villiers after it was reported the superstar batsman's offer to come out of retirement for the World Cup was rejected.
De Villiers retired from international cricket in May 2018 but has continued to play T20 cricket, most recently in the Indian Premier League. According to an exclusive ESPN Cricinfo report, De Villiers proposed wearing the South African colours again for the World Cup just 24 hours before the 15-man squad was announced. Team management reportedly declined his offer.
Per Cricinfo, South Africa overlooked de Villiers because it would have been unfair on players who had performed strongly in the months leading up to the World Cup, and he didn't fulfil the selection criteria because he hadn't played international or South African domestic cricket for the past year.
The revelation has sent shockwaves through the cricket world and has taken on an extra layer of significance in the wake of the Proteas' terrible start to the tournament. They've lost their first three games to England, Bangladesh and India and face mission impossible to miraculously finish in the top four and qualify for the semi-finals.
De Villiers was one of the most destructive batsmen in the world when still playing international cricket — and still is on the T20 circuit. His presence in England would have added some much needed starch to a South African batting order desperately lacking quality.
After the defeat to India on Thursday morning (AEST), du Plessis said it was "not acceptable" so many batters were scoring 30s and 40s but failing to go on and make big scores. His team has managed scores of 207, 309 and 227 in its three outings.
While it would seem unthinkable for South Africa to turn de Villiers down for a one-off tournament, especially knowing the country's rough history with World Cups where it's been labelled with a "choker" tag, many in the cricket world backed the Proteas' decision to travel to the UK without the classy right-hander.
Former Indian opener Aakash Chopra, ex-India star turned commentator Sanjay Manjrekar and Aussie legend Dean Jones all backed South Africa's call.
"Team management absolutely right on this count," Manjrekar wrote on Twitter.
Jones added: "And they made the right decision!"
Chopra tweeted: "If this is true — offered to return 24 hours before the team selection meeting. SA team management did the right thing, I feel. Your thoughts??"
South African great Herschelle Gibbs also weighed in, saying "nobody will ever be bigger than the team" and the decision to walk away before a World Cup is probably "eating him up".
Others on Twitter also had strong views on the bombshell report.
The star batsmen took to his personal Twitter page to respond to the bombshell report and said the focus should be on supporting the squad.
"All that's important is that we should all focus on supporting the team at the World Cup. There is a long way to go and I believe the boys can still go all the way," De Villiers wrote.
Cricket South Africa National Selection Panel convenor Linda Zondi addressed the report, saying captain Faf du Plessis and coach Ottis Gibson wanted de Villiers back in the squad, but it would not have been the right thing to do.
"I pleaded with AB de Villiers not to retire in 2018," Zondi said. "I did give him the option to plan and monitor his season to get him to the World Cup fresh and in a good space.
"We made it clear that he would have to play during the home tours against Sri Lanka and Pakistan to be considered for selection, instead he signed to play in the Pakistan and Bangladesh Premier Leagues respectively. He turned down the offer and said he was at peace with his decision to retire.
"For Faf du Plessis and Ottis Gibson to share AB's desire to be included in the squad on the day we announced our World Cup squad ... was a shock to all of us. AB left a big vacuum when he retired, we had a year to find players at franchise level to fill the gap.
"We had players who put in the hard work, who put up their hands and deserved to be given the opportunity to go to the World Cup. The decision was based on principle; we had to be fair to the team, the selection panel, our franchise system and the players.
"At no point in the year that he retired did he make himself available for selection.
"AB is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world, but above all else, we have to stay true to our morals and principles, there is no regret in the decision."
The Alternative Commentary Collective are podcasting their way through the World Cup. Known for their unconventional sports analysis and off-kilter banter, the ACC have come to ask the tough questions. Here's the latest episode of 'The Agenda':
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT