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De Villiers Says He Did Not 'Demand' to be Included in South Africa's World Cup Squad

Retired South Africa batsman AB de Villiers has clarified that he had not "demanded" to be included in Proteas' World Cup 2019 roster on the eve of the squad announcement, adding that he had merely told captain Faf de Plessis that he would be "available if required".

De Villiers had come under fire when it was speculated that the retired cricketer had "demanded" the selection committee to induct him into the World Cup 2019 squad when he spoke to current Proteas captain Faf de Plessis days before the squad was announced.

The retired cricketer revealed that after he called it quits in May 2018, an individual from Cricket South Africa, whom he chose to keep anonymous, had asked de Villiers whether he was available for the 2019 World Cup to which the former captain said that "the door was still open".

De Villiers said that the exchange with the unnamed individual had induced him to strike up a 'casual' conversation with current Proteas captain du Plessis, to restate his availability for the tournament emphasising "only if it required".

Chairman of the South Africa selection panel Linda Zondi, Proteas coach Ottis Gibson and de Plessis were "shocked" when they learned of de Villiers' desire to play in the World Cup.

On the contrary, the former captain said that he never "forced his way" into the team. Looking back he said, "I was asked. I did not offer. I quickly replied 'Yes'. With hindsight, maybe I should have just said no, but my natural instinct has always been to find a way to oblige whenever possible.

"During the weeks and months that followed, there was no formal contact between Cricket South Africa or the Proteas and me. I didn't call them, and they didn't call me. I had made my decision and the Proteas moved on, enjoying success under the expert guidance of coach Ottis Gibson and the outstanding captaincy of Faf du Plessis.

"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 had been in decent form during the Indian Premier League and casually repeated what I had said when asked a year earlier, that I was available if required... but only if required.

"I made absolutely no demands at all. 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."

Following the leaked conversation, De Villiers was pressed to make a statement as he faced criticism from the media claiming that the former captain had monetary interests but expressed that he did not want to falter South Africa's World Cup campaign and distract the team with bad press.

"I continue to be asked to comment on the disclosure, and distortion, of a private conversation that took place just before the squad was announced and, for the benefit of anyone who may have felt let down, would like to explain what happened.

"First, I announced my retirement from international cricket in May 2018 because I wanted to reduce my workload and spend more time with my wife and young sons. Some have insisted I was motivated purely by money. They are wrong. In truth, I have turned down many lucrative offers to play around the world, and have cut the time spent away from home each year from eight months to just over three months."

The former captain pressed on the fact that he retired for "honest" reasons.

"Then, out of the blue, on the evening after the Proteas lost to India, suffering a third successive World Cup defeat, 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.

"As a result, I was unfairly described as arrogant, selfish and indecisive but, with all humility, my conscience is clear. I retired for honest reasons and, when asked if I could be available for the World Cup, agreed to keep the door open. In the event, understandably, the team moved on. No problem. I am not angry with anybody."

Calling it an "unpleasant and unnecessary saga" de Villiers ended things on a light note and voiced his support for South African cricket "Now, at this stage of my life, I would like to continue spending time with my family and to play in selected T20 tournaments in SA and around the world.

"I have been massively proud to have played for, and indeed captain, my country on the cricket field. My relationships with the Protea players remain as strong as ever, and I will always be available to support and assist the next generation.

"Lastly, in stating my side of this unpleasant and unnecessary saga, I want to stress my continuing support for the team and the game that has shaped my life and provided me with so many lasting friendships and incredible opportunities."

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