MANCHESTER – South Africa captain Faf du Plessis paid tribute to two retiring players, leg spinner Imran Tahir and middle-order batsman JP Duminy.
The pair signed off on a winning note after South Africa’s thrilling 10-run victory over Australia at Old Trafford on Saturday evening.
The duo played alongside Du Plessis for the bulk of his career and formed the senior core of South Africa’s squad.
And despite a disappointing World Cup campaign, Du Plessis praised their individual efforts over the years and hailed their contributions to South African cricket.
He said: “They are two players who I have got so much respect for.
“Imran has got such incredible passion and love for the game of cricket. He commits to whatever team he plays for and is such a big-hearted player.
“He is hands down South Africa’s best celebrator ever. And JP is the father figure of the side. He has been my sounding board. He is one of the guys who have conversations with players.”
Tahir remains available for T20 Internationals but Duminy confirmed he has played his last match for South Africa in all formats although Du Plessis hopes he will become involved with the squad in future.
“He is perfectly suited as a mentor and someone who can help young players deal with what they are feeling,” Du Plessis added.
Mental preparation has been a focal point for South Africa at major tournaments especially when it comes to pressure situations.
In the last two World Cups, South Africa have been knocked out the competition in nail-biting circumstances - in the quarterfinals in Dhaka in 2011 and semifinals in Auckland in 2015 - but this time, they did not run it that close.
They were out of contention for the final four after seven matches and played two dead rubbers, including the one against Australia in Manchester.
Still, South Africa wanted to show what they are capable of and used the occasion to make a statement about the kind of performances they can put on.
They scored 325/6, asking Australia to pull off the highest successful chase of the competition, and defended it in fine style and du Plessis was not surprised to see Australia bring the best out of his players.
He added: “When we play against Australia, my message is to just make sure that you are there to look the opposition in the eye and fight for your country.
“I think it brings the best out of all of us as a team. We have probably played our best cricket the last two years against Australia because we do raise our intensity a little bit more, which should be there for all games, but I can't tell you why it's not.”
Instead, Du Plessis said South Africa will leave this World Cup a wounded, but an united outfit who hope to come back stronger at the next event in four years’ time.
“The one thing that has been true to and consistent through losing and winning has been the team morale.
“We showed great unity in tough circumstances and that's when you get tested as a team, that cracks can appear and you can really start blaming each other and I never felt that this tournament,” he said.
African News Agency (ANA)