Faf du Plessis led the Proteas to a series triumph in Australia. Photo: EPA
Faf du Plessis led the Proteas to a series triumph in Australia. Photo: EPA
Was ‘Mintgate’ part of the reason why Faf du Plessis didn't receive any award at the CSA function?
Was ‘Mintgate’ part of the reason why Faf du Plessis didn't receive any award at the CSA function?
Quinton de Kock won five CSA awards. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters
Quinton de Kock won five CSA awards. Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters
CAPE TOWN – Most players will endorse not paying too much attention to individual awards. They do appreciate the recognition for the performances they have put in, but ultimately it’s team success they crave most.

The focus is always on the team objective instead of the individual. Every series victory is celebrated with gusto, while a major tournament triumph has the ability to define a career.

No size of any individual award can substitute the pride of holding aloft the tournament trophy – just ask a crestfallen Lance Klusener, who won the Player of the Tournament at the 1999 World Cup in England only days after the Proteas exited in such dramatic fashion at Edgbaston in the epic semi-final against Australia.

Quinton de Kock, the big prize winner at CSA’s Annual Awards last Saturday, certainly sang from the same hymn sheet.

“Sure, accolades make you feel good. But when you know you’re doing your bit for the team, that’s what makes you feel good,” De Kock said.

Despite all of this reasoning, I still feel for Proteas Test and T20 captain Faf du Plessis, who should have been on the podium more than just once when asked to hand out the “International Newcomer of the Year” award to left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj.

In my mind, and listening to many whispers around Kyalami’s Theatre on the Track auditorium, others too felt that Du Plessis deserved greater recognition.

Faf du Plessis raises his arms in triumph after scoring a hundred against Australia at the Adelaide Oval. Photo: EPA

In many ways, Du Plessis has been the fulcrum for the dramatic turnaround in fortunes of the Proteas over the past 12 months. I remember last year’s awards function being a particularly drab affair due to the Proteas not actually having much to celebrate.

The national team were trounced 3-0 away to India – their first away Test series defeat in a decade – and came home to suffer another Test series loss to England. 

Further misery followed, with the Proteas crashing out of the World T20 in India before the knockout stages. The nightmare was not over yet, with greater embarrassment following the Proteas to the West Indies, where they failed to reach the final of a triangular ODI series involving the hosts and Australia.

Compare this to the past season, when the Proteas won successive Test series against New Zealand (home and away), Australia (for the third consecutive time away) and Sri Lanka (whitewashed 3-0 at home).

Equally, the ODI side has been hugely impressive, with the Proteas inflicting the first-ever 5-0 whitewash on the world champion Aussies and defeating both Sri Lanka (also 5-0) and 2015 World Cup finalists New Zealand 3-2 away.

Crucially, Du Plessis was at the helm of the Proteas for all those conquests bar only the victory over the Black Caps when AB de Villiers returned from injury to lead the ODI team.

The success could not only be measured in pure numbers, but also the quality of cricket that the Proteas produced and the supreme team spirit and camaraderie showed in often trying circumstances.

Cricket South Africa CEO Haroon Lorgat flew to Australia to support Faf du Plessis during ‘Mintgate’. Photo: EPA

Du Plessis was just not solely an inspirational leader. Like all good captains, he led from the front too with superlative performances across all formats. He was right up among the leading run-scorers in Tests and ODIs, while he also broke De Kock’s national record on home soil when he smashed 185 in the fourth ODI against Sri Lanka at Newlands.

Equally, his century in South Africa’s inaugural day-night Test at the Adelaide Oval against Australia was one of the most impressive centuries ever struck by a South African batsman, especially considering the particularly stressful circumstances Du Plessis had gone into the Test.

The conspiracy theorist within me ventured into murky waters with perhaps the drama surrounding the “Mintgate” issue – when the ICC fined Du Plessis his entire match fee for applying saliva to the ball when eating a mint – being the reason for not celebrating the skipper’s achievements more.

It certainly couldn’t be that, though, due to CSA having supported Du Plessis throughout the whole ordeal and even after when he opted to appeal his sanction.

The CSA judging panel consisting of Aslam Khota (convener), Neil Manthorp, Victor Mpitsang, Robin Peterson, Shafiek Abrahams and Andrew Samson had Du Plessis as a nominee in three categories: Test Cricketer of the Year, ODI Cricketer of the Year and the Award of Excellence. The latter was, of course, for his superb one-handed catch against Sri Lanka in the final Test at the Wanderers.

But on each occasion, Du Plessis lost out. Twice to De Kock (Test and ODI Cricketer of the Year) and to Bavuma’s run-out for the Award of Excellence.

I caught a quick glimpse of Du Plessis leaving Kyalami immediately after the live television broadcast. He did not seem grumpy or visibly disappointed at missing out on any of the awards, but deep down, he must have felt just a little bit bitter at not going home with some silverware.

Taking nothing away from De Kock’s achievements, but Du Plessis is my “SA Cricketer of the Year”.

Cape Times

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