AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis have been friends since childhood and even went to the same school (Reuters Photo)
- AB de Villiers had called Faf du Plessis the night before South African team selection for CWC19
- But du Plessis told de Villiers that it was too late as the players had already been picked
- Cricket South Africa had also rejected de Villiers's offer to come out of retirement for World Cup
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis on Monday revealed that his good friend and former Proteas legend AB de Villiers had called him the night before the team was to be picked for the World Cup 2019 and told him that he was ready to come out of retirement to play for the national team if needed.
But the phone call came in too late as the South African selectors had already zeroed in on the 15-member squad for the showpiece event by that time and announced the team minus de Villiers the next day.
"It was just a conversation, a phone call the night before the team got announced. It was just a 'this is what I'm feeling' [phone call].
"I said to him, 'I think it is too late but I will check in with the coach and the selectors the next morning.' When I spoke to the coach and the selectors, they all agreed that it was way, way too late to change the team on 99.99 per cent," du Plessis revealed before South Africa's fourth game against West Indies.
Du Plessis, however, added that recent turn of events has not affected his bond with de Villiers. "AB and I are still friends. This incident has not changed that. This is a small thing for a friendship that goes so way back."
The South African cricket board had already refused de Villiers's offer to come out of retirement to play for the national team after which he spoke to du Plessis during the Indian Premier League this season but in vain.
The Proteas team management considered AB de Villiers' absence from the domestic circuit and the performance of other members, including Rassie van der Dussen during the period after the Royal Challengers Bangalore star's retirement. De Villiers had announced his retirement in May 2018.
De Villiers's revelations and the controversy surrounding the team selection for the World Cup though, has not affected the players but in fact all this has united South Africa as a team, du Plessis stated.
"We do feel like the news came in and went through the team. It didn't have a huge impact. There was just a discussion on clarity and on making sure everyone knows what's going on and then it was moving on.
"The team was happy to get on with business. But it is stuff like that, generally, that can give you direction in your team and give you purpose to focus on what lies ahead," du Plessis.
South Africa though, have been struggling big time in the tournament with their chances of making it to the semi-finals diminishing with every game.
Du Plessis's team lost its first three matches against England, Bangladesh and India while the fourth match against the West Indies on Monday got washed out due to rain in Southampton. They got their first point thanks to the washout and are now placed ninth on the 10-team table, just ahead of Afghanistan.
"I do honestly feel as a team we are still very strong, you know. The guys are still enjoying being on tour, enjoying being here. The guys are having fun. It is just performance-wise we haven't put in the performances we need and, generally, I find that when a team starts losing two or three games, it can happen that there's a few cracks that can appear in a team and the blame game can start.
"And I do honestly believe that we have been very far away from that. That is a strong sign of us as a team, as a culture, and that is one aspect of performance. You get culture and then you get the actual performance on the field. So it's a positive sign that everything seems intact when it comes to that. But now it is just the performance and the skill side of cricket that needs to take over," du Plessis said.