Triumphant Proteas captain Faf du Plessis returned to Johannesburg on Tuesday and described the whole ball-tampering saga as a ploy by the Australian media to disrupt the South African team, but said the farce had served as a powerful indicator of the unity within the squad.
A video of Du Plessis doing two entirely legal things at once – sucking a mint and using his saliva to shine the ball – went viral in Australia between the second and third Tests, leading to the International Cricket Council charging the captain with ball-tampering and later finding him guilty and fining him his entire match fee from the Hobart game, during which South Africa won the series.
“The Australian media used it as a ploy to derail us, they speak of themselves as the Australian team’s 12th man. The challenge was to fight back and it was remarkable the way the team fought the battle so firmly for me, it shows where we are as a team in terms of our strong culture.
“At first we didn’t think it was anything really serious, but the media made it a big issue until nobody could control it. It was very disappointing the way it turned out, but my character was tested and against all odds I was able to make a play, it showed I can withstand those tests,” Du Plessis, who made a century in the third Test, said.
Team manager Mohammed Moosajee said they will be arranging a date for the appeal hearing, at which Du Plessis will have his own legal representation from South Africa, with the ICC and it should be set by the end of this week.
Moosajee also revealed that Cricket South Africa had laid an official complaint with their Australian counterparts and broadcasters Channel 9 had apologised for the behaviour of their aggressive reporter who sparked a scuffle at Adelaide Airport.
While admitting that captaincy brought out the best in him, Du Plessis reiterated that he sees himself as the stand-in skipper for AB de Villiers, who is set to return for the Sri Lanka series next month.
“I’ve always enjoyed it, I feel it does bring out the best in me, but AB knows that I am 100% behind him. I’ve learnt a lot about myself as a leader and the great thing is that the team has three guys – myself, Hashim Amla and AB – who have been captains and we are all very similar in the way we want the culture of the team to move forward,” Du Plessis said.
South Africa are still only fifth in the Test rankings, however, with Australia third.
“Going up the rankings is a goal of ours but it won’t just happen, we need to take really small steps to get back to number one. But all the signs are there that we can get back there; Sri Lanka are a good team, they’re playing well, but if we beat them then I reckon we’ll be close to number two,” Du Plessis said.