Faf du Plessis wants to forge new Proteas leadership core
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JOHANNESBURG - Faf du Plessis is very motivated to grow the next group of leaders in the Proteas team, citing a broader societal shortcoming in South Africa as one of the reasons he wants to do so.
Du Plessis resigned as Test captain following the series loss against England last summer. While Quinton de Kock has taken over as the national team’s skipper in the limited-over formats, Cricket SA don’t want to burden him too much and are sifting through names to replace Du Plessis as Test captain.
The 35-year-old said yesterday that he remained keen to extend his international career, and to do so in all three formats. More specifically he wanted to get involved in forging a new leadership core for the Proteas.
“We need to make sure we give it some attention,” Du Plessis said about the overall leadership in the national team, “it’s something that is not there in South African cricket.”
“Part of our culture is that we don’t seek help too often, we want to act like we’ve got it all figured out. This is an opportunity to look at that and see how we can grow the group.
“A lot of guys currently are in similar positions; they’ve not captained a lot, are relatively young in terms of leadership and not a lot of them have captained a team. It’s a great opportunity for five or six guys to build each other up and create a leadership group in the Proteas to drive the culture in the next few years and that is something I want to be a part of.”
Du Plessis led the Proteas in 36 Tests, winning 18 of those matches, the highlights of which were the 2016 series victory in Australia and then back-to-back triumphs on home soil against India and Australia in 2018. However in SA’s last nine Test matches - including six on home soil - the team have won just once.
The main reason for that was the retirements in relatively quick succession of AB de Villiers, Morne Morkel, Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn. Their absence was clearly felt in India last year, where with a new head coach in Enoch Nkwe, who was suddenly thrust into the position, an inexperienced Proteas team were smashed 3-0.
“The one thing that was obvious to me, we couldn’t replace experience overnight in the Test team, it would take time,” said Du Plessis. “We needed experience in the coaching staff, other players also felt that. It required a lot of my energy. Enoch did a great job in India. But we felt that for the first time in a long time, we lacked experience with our players and needed to fill that gap, from an experience point of view with coaches.”
Following a turbulent few weeks for CSA last December, Jacques Faul took over as interim chief executive and Graeme Smith interim director of cricket and then came the appointment of Mark Boucher as the Proteas’ new head coach. He brought in Charl Langeveldt as bowling coach and Jacques Kallis as a batting consultant, moves that paid dividends and will continue to so, Du Plessis believes, as the players grow in confidence.
Part of Du Plessis’ decision to resign as Test captain, was to give Boucher room to work with a new captain for the longer term. “The biggest reason (for resigning as Test captain) was that there was a new coaching staff, and a new coaching staff could start with someone new. I have a lot of value to add, but I think the time is right to fast track the process (of a new captain).”
Time away from training and playing, has seen Du Plessis reflect not just on the past, but also his own future as an international cricketer and he said the fact that he has missed all aspects of the game - from training to playing - is an indication that he wants to continue donning his Proteas kit - both white and coloured.
“I still love playing for the Proteas, I find myself wanting to play for the Proteas, wanting to do well and being able to add value. My communication to (the CSA hierarchy and coaching staff) is that I was still extremely motivated to continue playing for the Proteas in all three formats.
This time away from the game, has made it clear to me that that hunger is still there. I do love playing for the Proteas still. I’m looking forward to getting back to training, to nets and getting out there again.”