Proteas can’t afford to lose Faf du Plessis right now
The hunt for scapegoats is in full swing.
Already there are meetings being held back at Cricket South Africa’s plush offices in Johannesburg searching for reasons behind the Proteas’ World Cup humiliation suffered in the United Kingdom.
The most obvious person to fall on his sword will be coach Ottis Gibson.
CSA chief executive Thabang Moroe was unequivocal about Gibson’s mandate when the Barbadian was appointed as the first foreign Proteas coach just on two years ago. Monroe even reiterated this fact during the home summer.
“When the board of Cricket South Africa hired Ottis, it was purely to win the Cricket World Cup. His contract will be looked at after the World Cup,” Moroe said.
“As things stand, Ottis’ contract stipulates that he is hired to win the World Cup and as things stand, if he doesn’t win the World Cup, then he would not have had fulfilled his mandate.”
Gibson has, of course, not come close to that target, with the Proteas winning just one out of seven matches that have seen them eliminated with two dead-rubbers still to play.
The 50-year-old’s contract runs for another couple of months until September though, and considering CSA’s financial situation, they might not opt to terminate it just yet, although a mutual agreement could possibly be reached.
My greater concern is the future of Proteas captain Faf du Plessis.
Customarily suave and chic, Du Plessis has looked dreadful these past few weeks, worn down by on-field defeats and off-field sagas.
He even had to refute questions that he is no longer one of the cool kids.
There are constant tales floating around the press box that Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn and Du Plessis will follow JP Duminy and Imran Tahir into one-day international retirement once the last rites have been read in Manchester next week.
The Proteas, though, can’t afford to lose Du Plessis right now.
The best for all concerned would be for him to head off to Vietnam – or any other obscure tropical island – with his young family to recharge the batteries.
There is a massive few months ahead for the Proteas after the World Cup.
A tour to India looms large on the horizon before England arrive on SA shores. And if that wasn’t enough, the Australians return to SA for the first time since Sandpapergate to resume hostilities.
Du Plessis is central to holding it all together.
It might not seem like it right now, considering the results that have transpired at the World Cup, but his passion for the Proteas remains blindingly steadfast.
“I’m a very proud player and captain, and playing for South Africa means a lot for me,” Du Plessis said in the immediate aftermath of the Pakistan defeat at Lord’s on Sunday.
“I’ve certainly tried my best to try and make sure that we can get stronger, trying to get better.”
While every leader eventually reaches the point where he can take his charges no further, the dressing-room remains purely his domain, with the young players especially backing Du Plessis to the tilt.
Anyone else would also have struggled to contend with the amount of injuries that have blighted SA’s World Cup campaign. To his credit, Du Plessis has not once used it as an excuse.
He simply got back on the saddle and tried harder next time, despite the scrutiny increasing after every defeat. It’s his nature to come back fighting.
He will not hide away in the shadows and seek solace in T20 leagues around the world.
Du Plessis still has much to offer SA cricket. Hopefully the powers-that-be realise it.
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