Faf du Plessis grateful for fitness work done during lockdown for extending his career
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PRETORIA – Hard work on his fitness and clearing his mind, not to mention being relieved of the captaincy, has most likely added a few years to Faf du Plessis’ international career.
There should be no concerns about him needing fluids on Monday as he notched up his highest Test score, it was oppressively hot in the middle.
Rather look at how well he ran between the wickets even as his innings ticked passed the six hour mark. “I feel fitter now than at any stage of my career,” Du Plessis said after scoring 199 on Monday. South Africa posted the team’s highest total in almost five years, with Du Plessis innings backed up by innings’ of 95 by Dean Elgar, 71 by Temba Bavuma and another career best effort of 73 by Keshav Maharaj.
However Du Plessis’ innings understandably stood apart given how much pressure he endured last summer when South Africa copped heavy beatings against India and England and as the side’s most senior player, he added little with the bat.
“The Covid lockdown gave me that chance to work on my fitness, which absolutely was a blessing. I understand my body better now and I think people will need to look beyond just the age of a player before determining if he is still able to be successful at international level.”
“I think this innings was important from a timing and statement standpoint for those people doubted that I was still able to do it at this level.”
Being able to make big hundreds is what we aim to do as a batting unit. Obviously 200 would have been nice, but it was important to show that when you get in, even just making 100 is not enough, it's important to go on and bat big because those kinds of innings' win your team matches."
Meanwhile Sri Lankan coach Mickey Arthur said the onset of the Covid pandemic and what it has meant for the sport could force the ICC into being more flexible about their substitution rules. Currently only players deemed to be concussed or found to have contracted Covid-19 during a match can be substituted.
“The nature of things nowadays and the fact that in 2021 we will be playing a lot of cricket, may mean the ICC will have to look at that,” said Arthur, who sits on the ICC cricket committee.
Sri Lanka have lost at least three players to muscular injuries in this Test; Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusan Rajitha and Lahiru Kuamara and were already without Angelo Mathews for the tour and Suranga Lakmal for this first Test. In addition, Dinesh Chandimal, who finished the day not out on 21, was taken off the field on the back of a medical cart after play with Srthur still none the wiser as to his fitness ahead of the fourth day’s play.
Arthur explained how his players hadn’t been able to properly “load up” the necessary training given Covid restrictions in Sri Lanka, the Lankan Premier League T20 tournament which preceded the tour to South Africa and then the bio-bubble restrictions here which did impact on training in the first few days.
“Luckily we have 21 players here or myself and Grant Flower (the batting coach) would have to pad up for the Wanderers Test,”he chirped.