“Having the whole stage to himself allowed du Plessis to display his suppressed grit and wisdom; determination and maturity, that helped guide his team to a respectable target. But before Virat Kohli stole away his thunder, thus sidelining the player yet again, du Plessis did enjoy his moment in the sun”.
Even though Faf du Plessis is currently termed as the captain of the South African side, it would not be a hyperbole to suggest that the player often gets lost amongst the superstars that are present in his squad. Think South African cricket and the first name that pops up is undoubtedly that of AB de Villiers’ and his freaking nature to control and steer a game in his direction. Move away and there is the technically sound Hashim Amla, who in his own silent way, has been chasing and staging his own cricketing records.
You might even be forced to think of Dean Elgar, who had a memorable Test outing in 2017 and lower down the order, you might reminiscence of JP Duminy’s cricketing career that carved its own unfortunate trajectory. Then of course, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada can barely be overlooked and in this line-up of super superstars, a quiet du Plessis holds his own.
Imagine yourself in his position. Leading a team that is filled with some of the most loved cricketer’s in the history of the game brings with it its own challenges, but the task here is a more arduous one that can be believed. Not only does he have to segregate their superstardom from their skills, he also has to constantly remind himself that wherever and whatever his achievements might be, he, as a player and as a captain, will never really be able to rise above the aura that surrounds his more illustrious team-mates.
But maybe that is how he likes it to be. Maybe he has gotten accustomed to his presence under the shadows, which helps him carve out his game-plan in a more astute manner. Maybe the euphoria all around, that barely reaches him, allows him to see the larger picture that surrounds him- the World Cup trophy that is still missing from the South African cabinet. Maybe, just maybe, he loves dwelling in the oblivion so he can concentrate more and help guide his team to even grander summits.
But in Kingsmead, Durban, in the first ODI game between India and South Africa, du Plessis shrugged off all signs of revelling in the darkness, to play a captain’s knock that for once showered all attention towards him. Coming in to bat after the dismissal of Hashim Amla, who was sent packing by Jasprit Bumrah, the South African innings, needed a solid partnership and with the absence of de Villiers, the onus fell upon their experienced batsman.
He started off his innings in the right earnest by driving away Bhuvneshwar Kumar for three boundaries and along with Quinton de Kock, took the score to 83 before the latter fell to Yuzvendra Chahal. But soon, Aiden Markram found it difficult to gauge Kuldeep Yadav’s googlies and wrong ‘uns and Duminy too succumbed, in a phase where India’s slower bowlers were wreaking havoc. Though the captain himself was often unable to get under the line of the deliveries on various occasions, he stood tall. He knew that this was his moment of reckoning and even though he had been squished between legends, he now had to emerge and guide his team to safety.
His back was troubling him. The conditions were testing him. But he had set forth with determination and over the course of the next few overs; he beautifully adorned the captain’s role, guiding Chris Morris along with him. The duo added 74 runs at run-a-ball to help South Africa garner the lost momentum. He was equally impressive on both sides of the wicket; chipping and nudging away deliveries on the square, and driving and cutting towards the other side. When Morris fell, in the 41st over, the task had not yet been done and once again, the skipper curbed his basic instincts and played a supporting role in the presence of Andile Phehlukwayo.
He got to his hundred when he pushed a Bumrah delivery backward of square leg and the scenes that followed put forth a smile.
The usually reserved du Plessis allowed a small jump and a clenching of the fists, which revealed the importance of the knock to the player himself. For someone who hardly betrays even the smallest signs of emotions, the celebrations that greeted his ton highlighted its significance. In was only his ninth ODI century but one that would remain the most special.
Having the whole stage to himself allowed du Plessis to display his suppressed grit and wisdom; determination and maturity, that helped guide his team to a respectable target. But before Virat Kohli stole away his thunder, thus sidelining the player yet again, du Plessis did enjoy his moment in the sun.