Johannesburg [South Africa], Jan. 18 : South Africa batting stalwart AB de Villiers would not be playing in the upcoming three-match Test series in New Zealand to be played in March.
De Villiers, who has been out of international cricket since July last year, has recovered from his elbow injury but has made himself unavailable for the series against the Black Caps.
While squashing recent speculation that he was going to retire from Test cricket, De Villiers, however, insisted that his priority was going to be limited-overs cricket in order to play the 2019 World Cup.
"That's a good question. Not yet. I'm not there yet," ESPNcricinfo quoted De Villiers as saying when asked when he would return to the Test side.
"The reason being that I just need to settle things in my head. Over the last few years something has come to mind, which is the fact that we haven't won a World Cup yet.
And for me to make it to the 2019 World Cup, I can't really be serious in every format." "So I've made myself unavailable for the New Zealand Test series.
I will be there for the ODIs, and I'm definitely not retiring from Test cricket because I have plans to come back at some stage," he added.
De Villiers, who turns 33 next month, said that for him the most important thing is the 2019 World Cup in England.
"I want to make sure we get there. I want to make sure we lift that trophy. Obviously there are other factors that play a role like family and time away from home, but the main reason for me is that World Cup and I feel that if I play all formats all the time, then mentally and physically I won't be at my best," he said.
Cricket South Africa (CSA) chief executive Haroon Lorgat said that De Villiers' comments were not a surprise because he had been involved in discussions with the batsman.
"We've given him the latitude of taking time off, of setting himself for the 2019 World Cup. It is very much part of our planning," Lorgat said. "We know its challenging schedules that all of the players have. What I think is, he is not going to get another opportunity like he currently has with time off. To put it in this fashion - the most he must make of it now [sic], once he gets back on the treadmill it is all the way through to 2019," he added.
The CSA chief executive however exuded confidence that De Villiers would be available for the Test series in England this summer.
"What we're doing is taking it a series at a time. I am confident that by the time we get towards looking at England and the Champions Trophy, he'll be fully fit and raring to go," he said.
"His appetite would have returned because then it would be a fair amount of time he has had. I'm confident England is kind of a series that he would want to be available for," he added. Earlier on Tuesday, the swashbuckling South African batsman said that he was not retiring out of Test cricket, adding that he would have to manage his workload in order to be fit for the 2019 World Cup.
"My main aim is to get to that 2019 World Cup and I am going to do everything possible to get there. It's important to play the other formats but mentally and physically I need to be in a good space come the 2019 World Cup and that's what I am aiming for," he said.
"I know its still a long way away and it's all about managing that really well in order for me to get there." "I am going to have to make certain choices.
It's not easy for me. I have always been the go-ahead guy, the team man, who never wants to miss a game for South Africa," he added.
The 32-year-old has not played a Test since January 2016, when he was the stand-in captain for Hashim Amla.
He took over in the middle of a four-Test series against England, which South Africa lost 2-1 in the midst of discussions over his own workload.
During the New Zealand tour, South Africa will play one T20, five ODIs and three Tests..