Cape Town: AB de Villiers is not only looking to skipper South Africa to success at one day international level in the Champions Trophy, he is also auditioning for the role as Test captain, says coach Gary Kirsten.
The wicketkeeper-batsman has led the ODI side for the last two years and Kirsten, who leaves his post next month, says South Africa are grooming him for the Test job when veteran skipper Graeme Smith steps down.
There is no word on when that will be, but a chronic ankle problem will keep Smith out for the next four to six months. South Africa's medical team have been unable to find a permanent fix and it could hasten Smith's departure, fast tracking de Villiers into the job. South Africa's next Test series is against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi in November.
Kirsten, who leaves his post next month, has backed the 29-year-old to be Smith's successor. "AB de Villiers is growing as a leader, he has only done 20 games. Double that up and you will have someone who I think is going to be pretty special," Kirsten told Reuters in a recent interview.
"He has got great leadership qualities in that he has a great value system as a human being and as he grows and understands the strategy on the field he will mature into a great leader." There is a worry that the demands of the captaincy, wicket-keeping and his role as a key batsman in the top order may be too much of a burden, but his form with the bat has been outstanding. In the 21 matches since he took over as skipper in June 2011, he has averaged over 90.
Kirsten sees no dangers of overburdening de Villiers and suggested he would remain with the gloves for the foreseeable future. "We want him to explore his captaincy, but our strongest combination is with him captaining and keeping," Kirsten added. The fact that de Villiers relinquished the captaincy to Faf du Plessis in the Twenty20 side suggests there could be a workload issue.
It could also be that he has one eye on the test role. If De Villiers is auditioning for the test role, he did his chances no harm on Thursday in South Africa's defeat to India in their Champions Trophy opener. His leadership qualities were on full display as he sought to play his side back into the game chasing down a massive target. His run-a-ball 70 had the Proteas on course for an unlikely win before a middle-order collapse cost them the game.