CAPE TOWN – Dressed in a smart maroon jumper with matching socks, Faf du Plessis is undeniably the face of the Stellenbosch Monarchs.
The Monarchs may not have an owner, a home base that is actually not in Stellenbosch, and a coach that went wave-boarding instead of being at the inaugural T20 Global League draft.
But they do have one of the finest captains in the game at present.
Du Plessis’ leadership skills are held in such high esteem globally that the 33-year-old has been commissioned with the task of leading an ICC World XI in three T20 matches against Pakistan in Lahore next month.
Pakistan have only hosted limited international cricket since 2009, when the Sri Lanka team bus was attacked with hand grenades and guns.
Du Plessis’ mission of gradually starting the process of regular international cricket being resumed in Pakistan is quite obviously a bigger task, but his challenge in the Cape Winelands has a similar feeling to it.
The locals have been craving for top-class cricket action for a long while now, having had to be content with selected Cape Cobras matches – with the more high-profile games being moved down the N1 to Newlands – and even less international action.
Boland Park has hosted just 10 ODIs since 1997, which includes three matches during the 2003 ICC World Cup. The last international was held there four years ago, when New Zealand defeated the Proteas by one wicket.
The advent of the T20 Global League will change all of that, and the excitement will grow even further now that the Monarchs have assembled a high-quality squad, with an abundance of home-grown players too.
Along with Proteas Test and T20 captain Du Plessis, legendary Sri Lankan seamer Lasith Malinga has joined, in addition to England’s star limited-overs opener Alex Hales and Pakistan’s World No 1 T20 bowler Imad Wasim.
“It was an incredible day to be a part of. I am very, very happy with our team. It was probably down to the planning we did before, but I reckon we got 80 percent of the things we wanted. So, I am extremely happy with our combinations,” Du Plessis said after the draft.
“You try to get your X-factor players out of the way first. There were a few surprises in the beginning, but we were very happy to get Alex Hales first up. We were trying to get him in the first round, so very happy to get him.”
Du Plessis is a veteran of the IPL, having attained great success with the Chennai Super Kings over the years in conjunction with Monarchs coach Stephen Fleming.
They both understand the value local players add to the team structure, and that it’s not just the “big names” that win tournaments.
This knowledge certainly became visible the longer the draft continued. With the assistance of former Cobras coach Paul Adams, the Monarchs bought astutely with the acquisition of Henry Davids and Justin Ontong – the two life-long friends both born from the soil of the Boland – with rookie pace bowler Lizaad Williams enhancing the local flavour.
“It was case of trying to get your best local players in, and then to almost see which positions were left after that. The first four rounds went really well,” Du Plessis explained.
“It wasn’t the plan initially (to buy Boland-born players), but when it became a 50-50 situation, we tended to go that way. Henry Davids was in our plan, but then Alex Hales came in, so Henry took a bit of a backseat.
“But we always wanted to come back to him because we know the destructiveness of Alex Hales and Henry Davids together. It is probably going to be one of the most dangerous opening pairs in the tournament.
“And then when you get someone like Justin Ontong, and it’s between him and another guy, then you go with the local guy because he’s very experienced. He knows those conditions. He knows Paarl very well.
“And hopefully the fans will come back to see their long-lost sons come back to Paarl.”
Stellenbosch Monarchs Squad
Faf du Plessis, Lasith Malinga, Alex Hales, Tabraiz Shamsi, Wayne Parnell, Imad Wasim, Henry Davids, Mangaliso Mosehle, Wiaan Mulder, Justin Ontong, Ryan McLaren, Brendan Taylor, Lizaad Williams, Jeevan Mendis, Rowan Richards, Craig Alexander, Grant Mokoena, Kyle Simmonds.