Opinion: De Villiers, not Amla, must succeed Smith

Blog Opinion

Hashim Amla's commendable character, Faf du Plessis' lagging eligibility and JP Duminy's increasing unlikelihood accounted for, AB de Villiers – coupled with the arrival of Quinton de Kock to the top of the order – must succeed Graeme Smith.

Team manager Mohammed Moosajee recently stated the South African squad has "four or five people that can fill the role" – and while the latter number is an exaggerated stretch, the former comprises an ambitious list of candidates primed to succeed Graeme Smith.

The age-old debate about AB de Villiers' overloaded shoulders as the country's first-choice wicketkeeper-batsman will continue until the day he is appointed as Smith's successor. De Villiers has publicly declared his hesitancy to keep wicket and captain the side, both of which must not detract from his primary role as arguably the best batsman in the XI.

The promising emergence of Quinton de Kock has settled the conundrum somewhat – in that the young left-hander must fill the void vacated by Smith at the top of the order and de Villiers must relinquish the gloves, cutting the impending new captain's three-fold responsibility – leader, 'keeper, batsman – by a third.

Mark Boucher needed replacing at the time – and quickly. De Villiers was the man for the job then. He is not now. Smith's exit has ushered in the twin opportunity for de Kock's selection and obligation to de Villiers – the selectors must act accordingly.

While change doesn't have to be as vast as that conducted by England in the wake of heavy Ashes defeat earlier this year, de Kock's arrival and de Villiers' fresh vocation will commence the first steps to reclaiming the number one Test ranking.

The same tiny decimals separating the first-placed Australians and second-placed Proteas are found in the parameters of selection and – to quote Allan Donald – the 'one-percenters' can tip the scales. De Villiers' promotion will serve de Kock's ambition – and vice versa – ensuring percentages severely hampered by Smith and Jacques Kallis' departures are bolstered.

Hashim Amla's return to contention, meanwhile, is admirable – but not sustainable. 2013's decision to vacate the vice-captaincy spoke volumes of modesty and a humble approach to an admittedly enviable position. With Smith gone and opportunities anew, though, the sentiment stated two years ago lingers.

Suggestion that JP Duminy is in the running might as well be coupled with the pseudo candidacy of Dean Elgar and Wayne Parnell. Experience gained during franchise, Under-19 or other representative captaincy cannot be considered when the calibre of de Villiers, Amla and Faf du Plessis have precedence.

Du Plessis, true, has stolen his way into the hearts of the South African public on the back of a couple of Tour de Force innings – namely Adelaide, circa November 2012. Another premature exit in a major International Cricket Council tournament – the 2014 World Twenty20 in Bangladesh – will still hurt for fans and selectors alike, though. The appointment of one man to the both the T20I and Test captaincy but not the ODI leadership, too, would present an unclear strategy destined for a rethink in the foreseeable future.

Amla's commendable character, du Plessis' lagging eligibility and Duminy's increasing unlikelihood accounted for, de Villiers – coupled with the arrival of de Kock to the top of the order – is in the best position to captain the Test team. This won't sit well with a large contingent of the cricket public, but neither did the initial appointment of Smith – since the most capped skipper in the history of the game – in 2003.

<b>Jonhenry Wilson</b> | <i>@JonhenryWilson</i>