The sight of De Villiers bowling three overs in that epic semifinal in Auckland in 2015, while gutsy and admirable, also illustrated the leadership vacuum that existed in that South African side. De Villiers should never have been in a position where he felt he had to play as a sought of pseudo all-rounder, but it was also part of his whole “lead from the front” captaincy persona.
Du Plessis is a very strong captain, who clearly has the respect of his players, but he is also comfortable enough to allow them to lead too, even the most junior among them.
“My perception of leadership has evolved,” Du Plessis said. “It has done so over the past two years. Sometimes you can look at it as the guys who’ve played the most games, naturally they are the leaders in your team. I’ve seen the value in young guys being key leaders in the team. I feel you need diversity in your leadership group and you can see that’s been happening.”
South Africa has also provided opportunities for players besides Du Plessis to be captain.
Quinton de Kock led the side in two matches in Sri Lanka last year, Aiden Markram did so for the majority of the series against India also last year, while JP Duminy has captained the T20 team, when Du Plessis has needed a break.
He highlighted Kagiso Rabada’s leadership, especially in the bowling unit, which will be central to South Africa’s campaign in England.
Rabada has earned the respect of his teammates and his voice is an invaluable one inside the squad. His status as the world’s premier fast bowler adds to his credentials and his recent performances in the IPL showed that.
Hashm Amla, Du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Dale Steyn and Duminy are all heading for their third World Cup tournaments and their knowledge of how to traverse different challenges will be crucial. Even some of the painful defeats they were a part of at those tournaments, will help provide context for their younger teammates.
“I’m a little older, I’ve been through these events, sitting on the other side of it. Life doesn’t finish when you lose in the World Cup,” Du Plessis explained about some of what he has shared with the group.
Eight members of this year’s 15-man squad are playing their first World Cup, but it’s not as if some of them are not experienced players. Rassie van der Dussen has been a professional cricket for 10 years and has captained the Highveld Lions on occasion, Chris Morris, Dwaine Pretorius and Tabraiz Shamsi don’t only have lots of experience of playing in South Africa, but also being key players in various T20 Leagues, all of which adds to their experience.
The South African captain has seen to it himself that that won’t be the case, by spreading around the responsibility for leadership throughout the squad.@shockerhess