‘Faf cap­taincy a rev­e­la­tion’

There have been hints that he should be pro­moted to reg­u­lar cap­tain

CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XABANISA sports@city­press.co.za

Gary Kirsten, the last coach to win an away test se­ries in Aus­tralia with South Africa, has weighed in on the tricky de­bate over what should hap­pen with the Proteas cap­taincy once AB de Vil­liers has re­cov­ered from el­bow surgery. Faf du Plessis, De Vil­liers’ standin, has been a rev­e­la­tion in the role, drag­ging per­for­mance out of a team miss­ing the reg­u­lar cap­tain Dale Steyn, and that has not been able to rely on the likes of Hashim Amla for runs. And with the three-test se­ries won af­ter two matches – and the re­cent 5-0 one-day in­ter­na­tional white­wash over the Aussies in South Africa un­der his belt – broad hints have been dropped that Du Plessis, minty breath and all, should be pro­moted to reg­u­lar cap­tain.

Con­vener of se­lec­tors Linda Zondi has moved quickly to re­in­state De Vil­liers in the pub­lic’s mind as the team cap­tain, but Kirsten isn’t so sure.

“The bot­tom line is that the con­vener’s the one who makes the de­ci­sions,” he ex­plained. “But he needs to be com­fort­able that both of­fer sim­i­lar value in the lead­er­ship space, which is that AB will come back and do the same job as Faf.”

The for­mer Proteas open­ing bats­man, who has had such il­lus­tri­ous fig­ures as Ma­hen­dra Singh Dhoni and Graeme Smith as his cap­tains when he was coach, said he had been im­pressed with Du Plessis’ lead­er­ship.

“He’s shown real lead­er­ship abil­ity and it’s been quite some­thing to watch. He seems to be a cap­tain play­ers are com­fort­able with, and he’s cool un­der pres­sure.”

Kirsten, whose team was the sec­ond South African team in suc­ces­sion to win a se­ries in Aus­tralia, mean­ing the Proteas have now com­pleted the hat-trick, said he had been most im­pressed by the so-called ju­nior and pe­riph­eral play­ers on this tour.

“It was beau­ti­ful to see the ju­nior play­ers stand up when the se­nior play­ers were not fir­ing,” he said. “Even some­one like [peren­nial squad mem­ber] Kyle Ab­bott, who came into the team and took nine wick­ets in a man of the match per­for­mance in Ho­bart.”

The for­mer India coach said the per­for­mance of Quin­ton de Kock, Temba Bavuma and Kag­iso Rabada was proof of two things: per­for­mance will dip dur­ing tran­si­tion, and if play­ers are backed, they will get the hang of it even­tu­ally.

“Ev­ery team goes through cy­cles, where it goes through ups and downs while re­vamp­ing its per­son­nel,” he said. “Some­times the ex­pec­ta­tion is that teams will win con­sis­tently but that’s not pos­si­ble in modern cricket, which is quite com­pet­i­tive.”

Cur­rent Proteas coach Rus­sell Domingo, who was Kirsten’s as­sis­tant, came in for praise for his re­silience un­der try­ing cir­cum­stances when the team’s re­cent fail­ures – test se­ries de­feats to India and Eng­land, and an abysmal per­for­mance at the T20 World Cup – had most call­ing for his sack­ing.

“I don’t think the pe­riph­eral [sup­port] team changed dra­mat­i­cally, they’ve al­ways been an out­stand­ing set-up. Rus­sell and his team have been there for the last three or four years, so we need to be care­ful about say­ing they’re bad coaches when things aren’t go­ing well.

“Rus­sell got re­cruited to his po­si­tion be­cause of his skills set af­ter serv­ing his time at fran­chise level. I think he’s a great coach, but the prob­lem with coach­ing is that, when things go badly, the first fall guy is the coach, and when things are go­ing well, he’s the last in line for the credit.”

The irony of South Africa’s dom­i­nant win over Aus­tralia in their own back­yard is that it comes just months af­ter Cricket SA (CSA) re­leased trans­for­ma­tion ob­jec­tives that pre­dictably didn’t meet with univer­sal ac­cep­tance, some­thing that has not es­caped Kirsten’s at­ten­tion.

“I think we’ve got to be aware of the lan­guage used in that space,” he said.

“There’s a lot of rhetoric lan­guage there, but peo­ple like [CSA gen­eral man­ager] Cor­rie van Zyl have put qual­ity struc­tures in place to pro­duce good qual­ity black play­ers.

“But at the end of the day, the idea that you can’t pro­duce a good team when try­ing to meet trans­for­ma­tion ob­jec­tives is a con­ver­sa­tion that be­longs in the past.”

The Proteas’ third and fi­nal test against Aus­tralia, a day-night game in Ade­laide, will be played on Thurs­day.

PHOTO: ROBERT CIANFLONE / GETTY IMAGES

CAP­TAIN MY CAP­TAIN Faf du Plessis has re­ceived ac­co­lades for his lead­er­ship qual­i­ties as stand-in skip­per, and play­ers seem com­fort­able with him

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