Faf du Plessis, the man Aussies love to hate

Business Day - - SPORTS DAY - Telford Vice Lon­don

Aus­tralians will not want to know this‚ but the most suc­cess­ful ac­tive bats­man in one-day in­ter­na­tion­als be­tween their team and SA is again in their midst. And he is not one of theirs.

They do not like him for all sorts of rea­sons. For bat­ting for more than a day to deny them a Test vic­tory. For the tight­ness of his shirts. For what he has done to the ball while he had a mint in his mouth.

Now he is back in Aus­tralia‚ and if he leads SA to vic­tory in the sec­ond ODI on Fri­day the Aussies will have an­other rea­son to sneer as they say his name: Faf du Plessis.

He led SA to suc­cess in their Test series there in Novem­ber 2016‚ and his team are one win away from their sec­ond series tri­umph among the peo­ple who love to de­spise him.

Bet­ter yet‚ Du Plessis is back in Ade­laide where he made his de­but in 2012 and bat­ted for more than 11 hours for his scores of 78 and 110 not out and where he came un­der huge pres­sure in 2016 af­ter footage emerged of him, the mint and the ball dur­ing the pre­vi­ous Test in Ho­bart‚ and scored an un­de­feated 118.

The shirts? They’ve al­ways been tight‚ not only in Aus­tralia.

“It was a bit dif­fer­ent to this; there were a few more cam­eras around‚” Du Plessis said with a smile in Ade­laide on Thurs­day‚ re­mem­ber­ing what he was up against in the beau­ti­ful south­ern Gothic city two years ago.

“But I love com­ing to Ade­laide. This ground is prob­a­bly my favourite in the world when it comes to play­ing cricket here. I’ve got some ex­tremely good mem­o­ries here.”

Ever the diplo­mat‚ he has­tened to add: “This and New­lands are my favourite grounds.”

Ac­tu­ally‚ that could go for most grounds on which he has clashed with the Aussies.

Du Plessis is the high­est runscorer among cur­rent play­ers in ODIs in­volv­ing SA and Aus­tralia‚ and he has the high­est av­er­age. He is one of only three play­ers to have scored three cen­turies in games be­tween these teams.

The oth­ers are Her­schelle Gibbs‚ who is long gone as a player‚ and David Warner‚ who is serv­ing a ban for mas­ter­mind­ing a ball-tam­per­ing plot dur­ing the New­lands Test in March.

That pun­ish­ment was handed down not by the In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil but by Cricket Aus­tralia (CA).

So it is worth won­der­ing where Du Plessis’s ca­reer might be had he been Aus­tralian‚ con­sid­er­ing he has twice been done for the same of­fence as Warner.

Did he think Warner and co­horts Steve Smith and Cameron Ban­croft‚ who were banned by CA for be­tween nine months and a year‚ had been hard done by?

“It’s dif­fi­cult for me to com­ment on that‚” Du Plessis said. “When it hap­pened we thought that was harsh on the play­ers, there’s been so many play­ers who have been in sim­i­lar boats.

“But I wasn’t [in Aus­tralia] to un­der­stand how the peo­ple were af­fected by it. The back­lash that we saw in SA was mas­sive.

“We could see it’s prob­a­bly big­ger in Aus­tralia than it has been or will be any­where else in the world.”

Du Plessis had his own taste of how big this kind of thing can get the last time he was in Ade­laide‚ when the SA play­ers were hounded by a large me­dia pack at their ho­tel and at the ground. But‚ on Thurs­day‚ he spoke into only three mi­cro­phones.

“My char­ac­ter was tested through that week‚” he said of his pre­vi­ous visit.

“My out­come for that week was to tell my­self that if I get through this it will prove a lot about my char­ac­ter.”

It also proved the Aus­tralian me­dia takes no pris­on­ers.

“As good as the press are [to Aus­tralia’s team] when they’re play­ing well‚ when the per­for­mance is not there, there’s the same amount of hype around that‚” he said.

That means SA can count the Aussie me­dia as al­lies on this tour‚ what with them ask­ing all sorts of awk­ward ques­tions about a team who have lost 17 of their last 19 com­pleted ODIs.


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