I'll always wear a helmet, says wary De Villiers


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South Africa's new wicketkeeper emphasised yesterday the importance of wearing a helmet while standing up to the wicket. AB de Villiers will take over the job for the first Test against England in the direst of circumstances from the long-serving Mark Boucher, who was forced to retire on Tuesday after his eyeball was lacerated by a flying bail.

As De Villiers prepared for his unexpected change of role, starting with the tour match against Kent today, he said: "I always try and wear a helmet unless it's really, really low and slow. Mark always, funnily enough, always wears a helmet as well.

"So the reason he didn't have a helmet on that day I don't know... it just felt like it was a warm-up game and... It was a freakish accident that happened and I will definitely have a helmet on, like always. I had it on the whole Indian Premier League and I'll keep doing the same."

De Villiers is no stranger to the position having already taken over as the country's one-day keeper and the likelihood was that he would have become the Test keeper after the series against England if Boucher, as widely anticipated, had retired at the end of it.

Like many others since Boucher's dreadful accident at Taunton on Monday in the first match of South Africa's tour, De Villiers wants a custom-designed wicketkeeping helmet. The job entails standing up at the stumps more and more, especially in limited-overs games, with the corresponding increase in injury risk.

"I think it's stupid to keep without a helmet on and, going forward, helmet companies will start investing in proper keeping helmets, maybe a different design," he said. "I think Albion is busy with a design at the moment."

De Villiers expects an intense contest between the No 1 (England) and No 2 (South Africa) countries in the world. Sledging may well play a part.

"It's always easy to talk when you're on top," said De Villiers. "I do have a few things to say to some of the guys that Mark would have said, and he's passed on a few things to say. He said, 'Whatever happened to me is OK, but so long as you pass the messages on.' I said I'll do it.

"No, it's always played in good spirit and it's all about getting the momentum without going over the top when it comes to sledging. I think both teams respect each other a hell of a lot. We've both played some amazing cricket over the last couple of years and it's going to be a really great series."

He did not demur when invited to pay tribute to the South African-born players who will play for England, especially Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott, who learned most of their cricket in the country.

"I take my hat off to them," he said. "They made a massive move early on in their careers, and they're playing really well. They're respectable cricketers and we have a lot of respect for what they've achieved. I can't imagine myself as a 20-year-old boy coming to England and trying to make my way."

South Africa should play the XI today that they intend to field in the opening Test at the Oval next Thursday.