It all may have started out as a bit of caretaker job while his mate AB de Villiers was on a festive holiday break, but it has now hopefully turned into a fulltime position for Faf du Plessis.
South Africa’s T20 captain, Du Plessis, for this three-match series against New Zealand held aloft his first trophy yesterday when the Proteas defeated the Black Caps by 33 runs to clinch the series 2-1. The feeling of lifting silverware above his head was so good that Du Plessis now wants more, and possibly this leadership role on a permanent basis.
“I’ve always said when I looked at Graeme Smith a couple of years ago I thought being captain of South Africa was a really tough job. But I really do enjoy it,” Du Plessis said yesterday. “I prefer being very active on the field with my brain, thinking about bowling changes and field placements, keeps me energetic and I like to lead from the front in that aspect. Going forward it is something I enjoy and if it is something they want me to do, I’ll be glad to do it.”
The extra burden of leadership does not seem to hamper Du Plessis at this stage – he was his team’s second highest run-scorer – and although there were occasions where he struggled with his bowling changes and made that crucial error in the second T20 in East London when he brought the field in when four was needed for victory, the Titans man has showed the aptitude to be a quick thinker, and more importantly, a quick learner.
Any captain, though, is only as good as his team. And in this series, South Africa had placed their faith in group of youngsters and experienced domestic players, but who had little or no exposure to international cricket. Du Plessis could therefore not contain his excitement with the way the series played out, especially with the positive contributions from opener Henry Davids (20, 55, 68).
It was, however, the bowling unit that really impressed Du Plessis. Ryan McLaren was the standout bowler, claiming five wickets in the series, and only conceded 6.50 runs to the over. He was particularly impressive in the decider at St George’s Park where he claimed 3/25. Left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso also showed that he could hold his own at this level after “taking some tap” in East London with a vastly improved performance of 3/25 here. Robin Peterson and Rory Kleinveldt were also impressive throughout, claiming four wickets each, and only conceding 6 and 6.88 runs per over respectively.
“It’s very rewarding. Obviously as captain you want to win your first game, and then your first series, just too almost settle in. But like I’ve been saying all the time, the guys have played really well. I truly believe we deserve to win this series. I thought we were unlucky to lose the second game. Most of the series we were really solid, so I am very chuffed for the boys,” Du Plessis enthused.
Meanwhile, New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum has echoed Du Plessis’ sentiments about his own team, despite the Black Caps losing their second successive T20 series to South Africa.
McCullum chose to see the positives from this series, especially after the off-field dramas that beset the Kiwis prior to their arrival in South Africa, and the whipping they received in the first game in Durban. Considering the tourists had a very young squad too, lacking big-name players like former captain Ross Taylor and fast bowler Tim Southee, McCullum put on a brave face yesterday.
“The introduction of the new guys, playing in front of big crowds, is a positive,” he said. “We have seen some good performances from the new guys, especially Mitchell McClenaghan, and it is encouraging.
“Although, we didn’t get the results, we took significant strides in the series. The key thing is to continue to build the team inside out. We saw some guys step up, and they would now know what’s required in international cricket. Progression of where we were a couple of weeks ago and where we are now, it’s good.” - The Star