London – I am not going anywhere.
That was the fulcrum of Proteas one-day international captain AB de Villiers’s message as he faced the unenviable press conference post-mortem on his team’s crushing exit from the ICC Champions Trophy at the hands of India at The Oval here on Sunday.
The team’s media officer Lerato Malekutu implored an eager army of questioners to “speak into the microwave” – she gave a more radiant smile than De Villiers did as she acknowledged her harmless booboo – and the skipper certainly then got the near-inevitable grilling.
But if anyone was wishing to hear the 33-year-old batsman, who plays more selectively for South Africa these days, say he was relinquishing his ODI crown, he wasn’t about to play ball, despite this failure to reach the knockout phase, coming immediately on top of a 2-1 bilateral series defeat to England.
Why did he still want to be the captain? “Because I am a good captain, and because I believe I can take this team forward. I can take us to win a World Cup, I believe … I love doing it (the leadership).”
Asked whether a profound shake-up was required in the wake of another glaring failure in a multinational limited-overs tournament, he replied: “That question can only be answered by those in control of making radical decisions.
“It’s not my decision, that. We’ll have to wait and see what people out there decide.
“I’m not thinking about the next (tournament) now. We just want to sort of get through this hurt. It is hurting quite bad.
“(The loss was) nothing to do with the energy, the belief in the team; we felt we had a great chance to win today, we just unravelled as a side out there.
“It’s as disappointing as any of the other (major tournament) losses of the past … it ranks right up there. The way we lost was the most disappointing part … we were in a really good position with the bat in hand early on.
“Through soft dismissals we lost our way. That was the part for me that hurt the most. We were on the way for around 300, which I thought was very defendable on that wicket today.
“I wouldn’t like to blame guys out there; it’s just one of those things that happen.”
De Villiers’s insistence that his charges didn’t implode mentally is likely to spark quite spirited debate back home, considering how the batting collapsed from a decent platform, and including the run-outs of himself, David Miller and last man Imran Tahir.
“I felt the team was pretty composed out there today. I didn’t think we lost it with composure. I felt pretty calm out there.
“A few errors in judgement cost us badly today. We desperately needed another partnership in the middle order; that’s where we lost our way. We needed to get the ball rolling again after my run-out. We couldn’t do that.”
On his own dismissal, he said: “There was a call out there, and I thought we could get through for the run.
“Run-outs happen. But three in one innings is definitely not the way we want to play our cricket.”
*Rob Houwing is attending the Champions Trophy for Sport24. Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing