AB de Villiers (left) replaces Hashim Amla as South African Test captain © Getty Images
AB de Villiers (left) replaces Hashim Amla as South African Test captain © Getty Images

Did we see it coming? May be no, may be yes. We said Hashim Amla was not interested in the captaincy job, but he claims he was, perhaps. At least when he took up the job. Amla was judged by his on-field achievements as captain, for South Africa won most of what they played. Under Amla, South Africa sauntered to wins against Sri Lanka, West Indies, and Zimbabwe, but the one-off Test in Bangladesh was washed out and his side was hammered in India. Amla’s tenure was short, and the only major change that happened was South Africa’s continuing struggle in their rebuilding phase to fill in the big shoes of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, and field a lethal bowling attack in the absence of Dale Steyn.

Winning at home is expected from all teams (you can exclude West Indies); the only parameter with which international teams can be judged today is how they perform overseas. With West Indian glory being a thing of past and Australia proving that they may not get back to what they were, South Africa were the only strong outfit in Test cricket. They had it in them to at least hold on to drawn series, if not wins. But somewhere, it all was meant to end. South Africa enjoyed an enviable phase that lasted nine years, but with them struggling to find their feet after big retirements, it was only a matter of time. ALSO READ: Hashim Amla may have been South Africa captain, but wasn’t a leader

Not surprisingly, Cricket South Africa (CSA) have called upon AB de Villiers to take charge till the England series lasts. South Africa may or may not continue with de Villiers as Test captain after this series, but there are factors which they cannot turn a blind eye on, in case they decide to stick with him.

While de Villiers says it is ‘an incredible honour to captain South Africa in any format’, South Africa must realise they cannot keep running to a man who is already grappling with so many issues on and off the field — especially when he is already considering cutting down on the amount of cricket he plays. De Villiers mulling over the idea had already created panic of sorts in international cricket fraternity, and South Africa will have to learn to restrain from keep running to de Villiers to solve their problems. ALSO READ: Hashim Amla’s steely resolve leads South Africa’s revival in series against England

When South Africa needed to fit in an additional batsman in their playing XI, de Villiers was asked to go back to wicketkeeping. The decision was regressive for more than one reason: not only had they refused to give a long rope to another wicketkeeper (who would eventually come into the side), but they also took the risk of putting de Villiers in risk. AB has been grappling with a frail back for some time now, and now with the burden of captaincy also falling over him, the pressure will only increase on the cricketer who will be turning 32 in a couple of months.

De Villiers has captained South Africa only in 50-over format. This will be the first time the man of many talents will be stepping out of the ring of ‘leaders’ within the South African camp and take the chair of someone who will be responsible, will be looked up to in defeats and victories, and will be empowered to take South African cricket ahead. The immediate task will be to stop England from winning the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy 2015-16, but momentary feats must not blindfold South Africa from seeing the bigger picture.

And the bigger picture is that a few years from now, South Africa will be without their frontmen. De Villiers will be gone, as will be Amla, Faf du Plessis, Steyn and Morne Morkel. With them still recovering from the retirements of Smith and Kallis, South Africa will have to start planning from now. The discoveries they have made in Kagiso Rabada and Temba Bavuma do look exciting, but problems in opening as well as the bowling department continue to be grave. ALSO READ: Alastair Cook upset with Hashim Amla stepping down as South Africa Test skipper

Talking about captaincy styles, de Villiers will definitely prove to be more aggressive than Amla. The situation in which he is coming in as captain will demand him to be a lot more imposing; otherwise South Africa’s woes will compound. De Villiers may be the right man to lead South Africa. He can continue for a couple of years. But the fact remains that his appointment does not hide CSA’s ineptness in managing their cricket.

The appointment of de Villiers is spot on keeping the present situation in mind, but it will benefit South Africa more if they entrust someone with a long career in offing compared to one who may have entered his last phase.

(Devarchit Varma is senior writer with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)