Brisbane Heat are hopeful of enticing AB de Villiers to play multiple seasons in the Big Bash League after signing him for the upcoming season, according to coach Darren Lehmann.
The Heat pulled off a major coup on Tuesday signing de Villiers just months after it appeared as though de Villiers may not play in Australia’s T20 competition at all having withdrawn his interest in May following a flurry of media speculation.
Lehmann said Heat management had stayed in contact with de Villiers, including flying to South Africa to meet with him, and felt fortunate to convince him to sign for this season but they are hopeful it won’t be a one-off.
“We were just lucky enough that we had a good conversation with him and his management and Baz McCullum was fantastic as well, pushing the Brisbane Heat,” Lehmann said. “After it sort of fell over a bit we kept in contact with him and at the end of the day, we were really humbled that actually wanted to come back and play.
“I just want him to come and enjoy it really, to be perfectly honest. And I think if he does that he’ll play well. I saw him playing in England this year in the Vitality Blast and he played really well.
“We really want him to impart some of his knowledge on some of our younger kids more so than anything else and hopefully he stays on for years to come.”
The Heat are still negotiating his exact arrival date to Australia after agreeing to allow him to stay in South Africa to celebrate Christmas and New Year with his family for one of the rare times in his career.
De Villiers will definitely miss the Heat’s first five matches of the tournament. Their sixth match is on January 6 against Sydney Thunder and their seventh is against Hobart Hurricanes on January 9. Lehmann could not guarantee when he would arrive but did confirm he would play the rest of the home and away games and finals.
“It’ll be roughly early January,” Lehmann said. “We’re just working through those finer details. But we’ve got him from then right through until the end, and then hopefully finals as well if we play well enough, and then hopefully from then on, he keeps coming back.”
De Villiers’ presence gives Lehmann and captain Chris Lynn enormous flexibility with their top order as he joins the likes of Max Bryant, Sam Heazlett, Joe Burns, Matt Renshaw, and Ben Cutting.
But Lehmann was just as excited about what he could add from a leadership perspective.
“It’s a great experience for Chris Lynn,” Lehmann said. “I know they obviously played against each other in the IPL. I know Chris Lynn is over the moon and excited by it. But just for AB to impart his knowledge with the younger guys and leadership skills he’s had with South Africa. For us, it’s a win-win.”
The Heat’s other overseas players are currently Afghanistan spinners Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Zahir Khan.