I think it’s fair to say most South African cricket fans almost burst with pride when Proteas captain Faf du Plessis produced the most magnificent riposte to all his detractors with his century on the first day of the third Test against Australia in Adelaide.
Under huge pressure for a week – hounded by the International Cricket Council’s desire for a scapegoat and persecuted by the Australian media, who even went so far as to launch a physical assault through the pushing-and-shoving goon with a microphone, Will Crouch – Du Plessis played an innings of immense mental strength, skill and determination as he rescued the South African innings from total collapse in tough conditions.
The Adelaide airport incident was undoubtedly a set-up because there were go-pro cameras stationed ahead of time on the walkway and all media were well aware that Du Plessis was not allowed to comment anyway as per ICC rules.
The South African camp believes the original ball-tampering video was placed in the media’s hands by Cricket Australia and, desperate for something to deflect from the massive problems in their cricket, the media pushed it to the limit.
At which point the ICC stepped into the fray and the song-and-dance about the Proteas captain doing two entirely legal things at the same time – eating a sweet and using his saliva to shine the ball – and something the Australian team themselves have sportingly admitted they do as well, turned into a full-scale operetta.
The ICC’s behaviour in this matter has been truly pathetic and to hear CEO David Richardson whingeing on Friday about how disappointed he is that Du Plessis is appealing, as is his right, his guilty verdict astonished me.
Richardson is a trained lawyer and yet he thinks Du Plessis has been fairly treated when the ICC laid the charge and appointed one of their own employees, match referee Andy Pycroft, as the judge, with other employees, the umpires, as the star witnesses. To make matters worse, because the ICC wanted to rush the whole process to completion before the start of the Adelaide Test, Du Plessis was denied the right to have the legal representation he wanted, being unable to fly them in from South Africa in time.
I know this all happened in Australia, but to make it an absolute kangaroo court was taking things too far.
If Du Plessis is guilty of an offence, what about all those cricketers who put sunscreen on and then wipe their sweat on the ball? The infused mixture is a wonderful ball-shiner.
What about the ubiquitous practice of chewing gum and then using your saliva to polish the ball?
If Richardson really wants to uphold the integrity of the game then perhaps he should be applying his mind to the blatant shortcomings in the laws of cricket.
Du Plessis’ tremendous performance in adversity has had even more people wondering if he should not continue as captain even once AB de Villiers returns.
Personally, I rate Du Plessis as the more natural captain and probably someone who wants the job more. But you cannot just ditch De Villiers as he has done little wrong as captain and also has a wonderful cricket brain. Convenor of selectors Linda Zondi has said all the right things in this regard.
I believe you have to leave that sort of decision to De Villiers himself and, with his workload issues, he may well decide to hand over the reins to Du Plessis.
The only other issue is that Du Plessis might have been the batsman earmarked to make way for De Villiers, but you surely cannot leave him out after his Adelaide masterpiece?