Cap­tain Faf is as cool as can be

Du Plessis can show his lead­er­ship cre­den­tials at The Oval as he pa­tiently builds Test team of su­per­stars

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

FAF du Plessis looked pretty chilled. Legs crossed, arms folded, lean­ing back in his chair, he could eas­ily been hav­ing a cof­fee with some pals in­stead of shar­ing his wis­dom with the as­sem­bled me­dia in the ‘Com­mit­tee Room’ in the old Pavil­ion at this his­toric venue.

He didn’t have the look of a man lead­ing his coun­try in a cru­cial Test match at The Oval this af­ter­noon. In truth, the wor­ries for Du Plessis are few – cer­tainly by com­par­i­son with his coun­ter­part Joe Root.

South Africa will make one change for the third Test, with Kag­iso Rabada com­ing in for Duanne Olivier.

Eng­land will make two, pos­si­bly three, with Tom West­ley and Toby Roland-Jones mak­ing their de­buts as a re­sult of in­juries to Gary Bal­lance (bro­ken hand) and Mark Wood (bruised heel). A look at the pitch this morn­ing will de­ter­mine whether Liam Daw­son re­tains his start­ing spot or if Dawid Malan gets a run. Malan will also be on de­but.

The South African play­ers have spent the last few days hear­ing how hor­ri­ble Eng­land’s bat­ting was at Trent Bridge, while not enough credit’s been given to the visit­ing team’s bowlers.

That’s not an un­usual po­si­tion for the Proteas. Du Plessis be­lieves that his team is un­der­rated per­haps on ac­count of the lack of star names in the squad.

“We’ve never wanted to rely on big names. You get play­ers that are con­sis­tent and put in big per­for­mances but if you look at our last year and a half or so of Test cricket, there’s been un­sung he­roes all the time that have stepped up and made plays for the team when we most wanted them to,” he said.

“I will be very happy to keep be­ing the un­der-rated team and by mak­ing sure that if we keep putting in small per­for­mances, from ev­ery guy in the team, we put pres­sure on the big­ger teams around the world.”

Du Plessis found sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween how South Africa are be­ing viewed here, with what they en­coun­tered in Aus­tralia last sum­mer. There they took a shock 1-0 lead, win­ning in Perth with a man down for the most part. Be­fore that se­ries, just like with this one, there was talk about how the ab­sence of AB de Vil­liers, would be too big of a hur­dle for them to over­come. When Dale Steyn in­jured his shoul­der on the sec­ond day of the Perth Test, that hur­dle was sup­posed to get big­ger. South Africa over­came and won.

“I see it as a nice thing for us to be in as the op­po­si­tion,” Du Plessis mused.

“All teams don’t want to feel the pres­sure and you do feel the pres­sure when you don’t play your best cricket, that’s part of the game. The Eng­land cricket team will be the first to say that they will ac­cept crit­i­cism from the last Test match and they will try and brush it off straight away and start a new game fresh and play some good cricket. We will cer­tainly try and make use of pres­sure wher­ever we can.”

Crit­i­cism from for­mer Eng­land cap­tain Michael Vaughan – a close friend of Root’s – that Eng­land didn’t re­spect the de­mands of Test match bat­ting def­i­nitely stung. Root’s been in con­tact with Vaughan since Trent Bridge, but knows it is ac­tions rather than words that will prove if his team have learned a les­son.

Du Plessis can at­test. He ex­plained how he took over at time a “of real dark­ness as a Test team,” fol­low­ing de­feats in In­dia at the end of 2015 and on home soil against Eng­land last year.

“I had a vi­sion of where I wanted us to go, and a blue­print for get­ting there. But get­ting there doesn’t al­ways hap­pen, you have to be pa­tient and wait for it to un­fold. Luck­ily things hap­pened a lot quicker than I thought it would,” Du Plessis ex­plained.

“I played un­der a lot of good lead­ers, spoke a lot and lis­tened a lot about lead­er­ship and then you take lit­tle bits off ev­ery­one and you form your own iden­tity as a cap­tain and then you just trust it, you stay pa­tient with it, if you know you’ve got the right peo­ple on board and the right pro­cesses then hope­fully the re­sults will come.”

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