One of cricket’s most exasperating feelings is to see South Africa lose. Fans can’t deal with it. Critics are likely to bring out the choker tag. Their players – troubled as they may seem – are still determined to carry on; to focus what lies ahead, regardless of a poor outcome.
You stop focusing on anything else when South Africa play.
South African culture reflects directly in the way they play their firebrand cricket: ethereal and eye-catching, almost like a walk in the Kruger National Park- with soul-stirring sights melting your heart.
The feeling of seeing majestic, impressive creatures- Morkel, Steyn, De Villiers, Amla, Tahir- in an all encompassing South African line up brings happiness and joy; a feeling unparalleled by any other cricketing side.
And above the shine of these hallmark names - who are to cricket what brightly illuminating stars are to a galaxy - a man stands out.
Faf Du Plessis’ era is leading transformation in South Africa
He is no Hansie Cronje. He isn’t first-rate star attraction like Jonty Rhodes. Nor is he the seemingly recalcitrant but affirmative role-model captain like Graeme Smith.
But in Faf Du Plessis, the responsibility of leading the rainbow nation seems to be resting on able shoulders.
As a man, he is intensely competitive in a very South Africa way. Quaintly elegant and not boisterous, focused but not loud- Faf’s conduct reassures that the game in South Africa is in safe hands.
These stats don’t lie
For a man who walks into bat quite deep after Elgar, Amla, Duminy in Tests and post Rossouw, Amla and de Kock in ODIs- batting, the only technical skill he is equipped with can provide interesting challenges.
At times as the mid-innings crawler- when an ecstatic top order crumbles uncharacteristically and on other times, as the man who keeps the tempo building to a huge first innings score- Du Plessis’s recent performances warrant great merit.
His solid centuries against Australia, starting from Johannesburg- 111 off just 93 in a successful ODI series and then his 118 not out at Adelaide Oval- clearly meant that the batsman in Faf hadn’t succumbed to the pressure that Faf the skipper was tasked with.
Stating publically that De Villiers is a greater superstar than any he’s known, on the eve of De Villiers stepping down from the captaincy, Faf was merely suggesting at the inherent goodness he possesses. After all, the one batsman AB himself claims to love watching is Faf himself.
Whether it was his brave soldiering of his troops- Kagiso Rabada in the stormy series toward Down Under or leading by example in the recent success against Sri Lanka- Faf has gathered quite a storm.
Who can forget Faf’s praise of Rabada in the press conference Down Under where he kissed his forehead in deep admiration? That was pure, clean South African brotherly love!
Though the 32-year old has only about managed 6000 international runs since starting out in 2011, his consistent performances in a side that has legends like De Villiers and Amla, and now de Kock, have ensured that the focus doesn’t stay in one place. And that the team can breathe easy if the chips are down.
Du Plessis has ensured that the choking doesn’t haunt his soldiers
Recent successes against Sri Lanka, in both Tests and ODIs, may have seemed like victories against college boys, the island nation clearly struggling sans Angelo Mathews, but Du Plessis once again stood out.
It just didn’t occur that De Villiers wasn’t in the playing eleven in Tests. Faf was busy communicating with de Kock, encouraging Amla and busy forging partnerships with a newly reenergized Duminy.
While his Test performances weren’t even sizeable, he struck back with rich aplomb on February 7, 2017 in blitzkrieg of sorts.
Faf Du Plessis 185 and still not out
Regardless of age and geographical divide, the thought about outstanding batsmanship still very much belong to Gary Kirsten’s imperious 188 vs UAE in World Cup 1996. Kallis was young, playing his first world cup. The likes of Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock teamed up and hunted in pairs those days.
And as the leading opening batsman, Kirsten created the highest ever score by a Protean.
Faf Du Plessis, suddenly lifted the veil off the veneer toward nostalgia on Feb. 7, rising as the Caped Crusader wielding the glorious Rainbow Colours at Cape Town- striking 185.
That was an innings that fell heavy on Lanka, who went out of the park with South Africa scoring 367. Ensuring that a 4-0 victory was earned under his leadership, the batsman in Faf gave able talking points to the spirited leader South Africa is currently looking up to.
What’s more, AB was in the same side too
A knock that was just 3 shy of Kirsten’s heroics, saw Du Plessis remind the world once again that this glorious recent run rather run-ins, for Australia weren’t freak forces of nature. His 185 will be remembered for more reasons than one- that South Africa now have a captain who loves to bat and lead in the same lordly elegant streak in which he conducts himself on and off the pitch- like an utter gentleman.
It’s a long year ahead Faf. May we see the best from your blade.
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