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
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.”