Player safety was the main con­cern and we re­spect that: Du Plessis

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport -

CON­CERNS over player safety on a soft out­field caused three aban­doned days in the Dur­ban Test and an even­tual draw, de­spite both teams be­ing “very keen” to get on the park. Faf du Plessis and Mike Hes­son said the South Africa and New Zealand camps were “ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed” and “frus­trated” af­ter play­ing only four out of 15 ses­sions, but re­spected the de­ci­sion of um­pires Ian Gould and Richard Illing­worth not to al­low fur­ther play.

“It’s up to the um­pires to make an as­sess­ment of whether the ground is safe or not,” du Plessis said. “As crick­eters or sports­men, we gen­er­ally don’t look at all the fac­tors, we just want to get out there. From our per­spec­tive, we wanted to play but the gen­eral feel­ing was that the ground was un­safe. There were quite a few ar­eas that were a bit muddy and a bit loose on the foot. They were very wor­ried that if you were to sprint or make sud­den move­ments on it, you could get badly in­jured. The mes­sage was pretty clear from the um­pires that player safety was their main con­cern and we re­spect that.”

Kingsmead’s re­cently re­laid out­field took 65 mm of rain on Satur­day evening, which sunk into the sandy patches caused by the scar­i­fy­ing process that left scant grass in sev­eral ar­eas. A full day of sun on Sun­day and winds of up to 70kph on Mon­day were enough to dry it out but the ground un­der­foot did not har­den and the match was called off be­fore the sched­uled start of play yes­ter­day. In par­tic­u­lar, patches around the bound­ary and on the edges of the square were in­spected by the um­pires over the two days and were found to give way un­der­foot, high­light­ing what was ob­vi­ous even be­fore the match be­gan - that the out­field needed more time to re­cover from the work that had been done ear­lier in the win­ter. “From the time we ar­rived at this Test match, we knew that the out­field was in a poor state and ob­vi­ously it just didn’t cope with the rain,” Hes­son said. So­lu­tions such as mov­ing the bound­ary in or us­ing a dry­ing agent like saw­dust were non-starters be­cause the laws do not per­mit chang­ing field di­men­sions once play has started and saw­dust is only used once there is an in­di­ca­tion of when play will be pos­si­ble. In hind­sight, cov­ers on the en­tire out­field could have kept it pro­tected, but Kingsmead does not own full ground cov­ers, which cost around R400 000 ($30 000), and none were bor­rowed from nearby clubs. The cov­ers made a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence as was ev­i­dent from the square, which re­mained in pris­tine con­di­tion through­out the match. Du Plessis even ad­mit­ted he would have been happy to field close-in, but it was the out­ly­ing ar­eas that posed a dan­ger.

“I wouldn’t have minded stand­ing in the slips be­cause there wasn’t much hap­pen­ing there but the ar­eas of con­cern were the bound­aries. If you fielded at fine leg and had sprint around or you have to dive for a ball at mid-off, take a catch or some­thing like that, that was a con­cern,” he said. “As a player, when a ball is go­ing in one di­rec­tion, I am go­ing to run and dive and try and stop it. I don’t think of what’s hap­pen­ing on the out­field. It’s the um­pires’ job to think of those things. I am there to try and win a game of cricket for my coun­try. The mod­ern game of cricket al­lows the um­pires to make the de­ci­sion to make sure player safety is im­por­tant.”

Du Plessis also con­ceded that nei­ther side wanted to take the chance of los­ing a player to an in­jury that could be avoided. “If we had got on the field and a bad in­jury hap­pened, both teams would have been pretty upset. From a cap­tain’s point of view, if one of your strike bowlers ran around the bound­ary and hurt him­self by do­ing it, you would be upset,” he said.

As far as con­di­tions in the mid­dle were con­cerned, though, seam­ers on both sides had had rea­son to smile, as Kingsmead pre­sented them with one of the best pitches seen at the ground. The sur­face had a sig­nif­i­cant grass cov­er­ing, which aided seam move­ment and had good bounce and carry. New Zealand re­stricted South Africa to 263 on it, be­fore Dale Steyn and Ver­non Phi­lan­der brought back mem­o­ries of old in a 12-over pe­riod in which they had New Zealand 15 for 2. With the vis­i­tors’ best bats­men, Kane Wil­liamson and Ross Tay­lor, at the crease, it was shaping up to be an in­ter­est­ing tus­sle.

“We were dy­ing to get out there be­cause we had them in a spot of bother and on that wicket, there was still a lot of as­sis­tance. It was a great cricket wicket,” du Plessis said. “There was a bit of move­ment for bowlers, a bit of swing and if you knuck­led down and you were pre­pared to bat for time, you could score some runs on it. I think it would have been a re­ally good Test match.” - ESPNCricinfo

Faf du Plessis

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