The question of whether AB de Villiers should keep wicket for South Africa in tests may have been answered by his record-breaking performance in his team’s 211-run win over Pakistan at the Wanderers.
De Villiers became the first player in test history to score a hundred and take 10 dismissals behind the stumps in the same match, with his final tally of 11 equalling Jack Russell’s all-time test record for a stumper.
It was an eye-catching performance by the 28-year-old, whose role with the gloves since the retirement through injury last year of Mark Boucher has been the subject of much debate.
While his selection allows South Africa to pick specialist batsman Dean Elgar at number seven, questions were raised as to whether he had the ability to perform the role on a long-term basis.
“The keeping is something I want to do well. I am getting better, though I am not yet where I want to be,” de Villiers told reporters.
He has been receiving inputs on and off from Boucher, which he believes have been a major contributor to his growing into the role.
“The work I have done with Bouch has helped me a lot. He doesn’t try to change too much technically, but if he picks something up on TV he will let me know.
“I am moving my feet a lot better than when I started and I am much more confident now about standing up to the stumps to the spinners.”
South Africa captain Graeme Smith says he has seen the improvement in de Villiers with the gloves and that has given everybody in the team more confidence.
“AB’s keeping has been outstanding, it’s getting better and better,” Smith said. “The area in which he is catching balls is growing and that allows us as slips to space out a bit more which improves our chances of taking catches.”
Dale Steyn joked on Saturday he believed de Villiers could keep without gloves he was that adept, but there was also a warning to South Africa of the perils their key middle order batsman faces.
A blow on the finger from a Steyn delivery during the test lifted a nail and there were initial concerns of a fracture, but these were quickly dispelled.
This, coupled with de Villiers’ back problems that have plagued him on and off for the last few seasons must be a concern for management, though the player insists he feels “100 percent fine”.
“AB keeping gives us so many options,” Smith concludes. “He will probably always be judged on runs so it was exciting to see him get a hundred as well. We are very happy with his role.”