When South Africa last lost a Test match by a margin of an innings at home, none of the players on either side barring Stuart Broad had made their Test debut. The current English captain Joe Root was still three years away from his International debut while his counterpart Faf du Plessis was still mulling over the conundrum between going towards the Kolpak route or keeping the desire to pursue an international career with South Africa alive. 2009.
Du Plessis eventually choose the latter but now 11 years later, his International future- at least in Test cricket-may just be approaching its final chapters. The deflated South African captain is facing severe scrutiny both as a leader as well as a batsman.
Since the start of the Test series against India, Du Plessis has averaged just over 21 [21.25], with 255 runs in 12 innings. Moreover, he has now presided over South Africa’s horror run that started with the shock 0-2 defeat to Sri Lanka at home, which was followed by a shellacking at the World Cup and a mauling in India. The win in Centurion promised a new start but even that has fizzled out as England enjoy a 2-1 lead in the four-match series.
So, will the Johannesburg Test be Faf du Plessis’ last on home soil? The South African has certainly indicated towards it. According to Du Plessis, his commitment was till the T20 World Cup, and with very little Test cricket to follow (barring the two Tests in the West Indies in July), this may well be his swansong as far as playing Test cricket at home is concerned.
“I have committed until the T20 World Cup. There isn’t a lot of Test cricket left this year: one massive Test where we need everyone to be as strong as possible, [and] afterwards there is quite a big gap.” Faf du Plessis said as quoted by ESPNCricinfo.
He added, “I have said before, there is an opportunity to release some of the captaincy. Two Test matches in the West Indies [in July], and the rest of the year is white-ball stuff. Most probably after that, Test cricket will be something that won’t see me. That’s a decision I will make then. For me now it’s to be as strong as possible.”
Faf du Plessis firmly focussed on the job at hand
Faf du Plessis is firmly focussed on the present. Though he said that “it is a possibility” that the Jo’Burg Test might just be his last, he does not want to leave the team in such tumultuous times- certainly, not in the midst of the series, when there is still chance for the home side to square the series and salvage valuable ICC Test Championship points.
“The worst thing a leader can do is pull the plug mid-series. I don’t think that’s what’s leadership is about. I felt that the team has needed a leader to stand up and guide the ship through a difficult time.” said Du Plessis.
He added, “If you leave the team when they need you most, that’s not my style. I have been under pressure a few times and I’ve played my best innings under pressure. I can’t leave the team when they need me most. We are in a transition but I can’t do it forever. It has been chipping away at your character. For now, that’s what we need. I think it will make it worse if I say I’m out.”
The outcome of South Africa-England Test series have generally resulted in the losing captain relinquishing his leadership duties or even retiring. Michael Vaughan retired after losing the 2008 Test series against South Africa, Strauss did the same in 2012.
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