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Faf du Plessis: An Unlikely Legend of Cricket

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Faf_du_Plessis_South_Africa_cricketThe recent South Africa vs. Australia test series was a flat out shock to the senses. Nothing has vaulted Test cricket into the media stratosphere like this 4 match showdown did, and perhaps nothing ever will.

After all is said and done, naturally the Australian ball tampering (and ensuing bans) will be the biggest take away from it all. But there was so much more to savor from it.

David Warner proving that karma exists and is brutal, Aiden Markram showing the world what a superstar he will be. Kagiso Rabada reminding the world what a superstar he is. And AB de Villiers confirming that the format that matters the most to the players is still the longest one.

Both Nathan Lyon and Morne Morkel passed the 300 career test wickets mark in the same Test match. Lyon to reserved celebration, Morkel doing so to mark one of the finest player send offs in the game’s history.

The action throughout was all consuming, and I sincerely hope someone makes a documentary series on everything because there was just too much to remember off hand.

Another thing that this series created was the next chapter in the amazing cricketing career of Faf du Plessis.

When you look back over the years in cricket, certain names like Sobers, Lillee, Hadlee, Akram, Tendulkar, Lara, Warne, Pietersen and Kallis will all stand out, and this will be for their obvious brilliance. Then you get players who are maybe less brilliant in statistics and pedigree, but perhaps more important in what they have been involved in during their careers.

Faf du Plessis is the epitome of that for me. He was always destined for big things as a cricketer. He and AB de Villiers went through age group levels of the game side by side, but it was only AB that dazzled his way onto the international stage as a super talented youngster. Faf was on the outside looking in. So much so that he took a Kolpak contract with Lancashire back in 2007.

He stuck to his guns though, and once the contract had expired he managed to break his way into the national set up in 2011 on the back of consistently strong performances on the domestic limited overs scene.

He was widely seen as nothing more than ‘AB de Villiers’ good mate’. But he knew he was always so much more than that. The guy’s international career went onto prove this with a never ending highlights reel of talking points.

In his first World Cup, while his team performed yet another spectacular choke in a must-win game, he was on the verge of a fist fight with a bunch of New Zealanders out in the middle after AB de Villiers was dismissed. In his debut Test match, he bats for seven and half hours to save the game for his team against Australia in Adelaide. Recording a career defining century in the process and shifting momentum in his team’s favor to help them secure a famous series win.

He dazzled in the IPL for the Chennai Super Kings during their golden era, he became the SA T20 captain, and the rock in the Proteas batting order that was needed post the Jacques Kallis era. All with impeccably styled hair and tailored sleeves adorning his tanned biceps just the way he liked it. The guy was the real deal.

2015 was a tough year for him though. Another World Cup heartbreak, and a loss of form which he took into 2016 so severely that he lost his place in the Proteas Test team. Lesser players may have seen their careers derailed from here. But somehow Faf returned and didn’t just come back stronger, he came back as one of the most influential leaders in the game. While AB de Villiers was ‘considering his future’, du Plessis was ensuring the national team had one by getting them back on track.

Everyone felt AB would be the answer to lead the Proteas after Graeme Smith, but the country had lost its favorite cricketing son to the sidelines. But his ‘good mate’ was filling in for him and then some.

As Test captain he took his team to Australia and recorded yet another series win to the disgust of the Aussies. They threw whatever they could at him both on and off the field, but he was unflappable. He led with conviction and at times just straight-up balls as displayed in the day/night Test where he battled his way to a century when all around him were falling. And then declared on the first day with just 259 runs on the board, to catch the opposition off guard and have a bowl at them under lights.

This, of course, all happening in the aftermath of ‘mintgate’ and getting harassed by the media for his ball shining technique.

He starred in AB de Villiers’ music video, he is often involved in comical run outs, has been bust for ball tampering, twice, but this guy is still at the top of the game.

He is the only South African captain to have secured a series win against the Aussies both home and away, and was in charge while his opposite number was recently in tears. He is relatively soft spoken, always ready with a smile, and likes to sometimes leave balls that are only destined for the off stump.

There is something really unique about him and it cannot be denied.

His career with South Africa may not last post the 2019 World Cup. There is a great chance that he will be a part of another spectacular choke. But maybe, just maybe, the legend that is Faf du Plessis is just quietly building for the most spectacular of international farewells. The man that walks head first into ‘stairwell situations’ between two teams dressed only in a towel could be the first person to finally get the monkey off the Proteas’ back and win an ICC World Cup.

It would be a huge surprise considering the history of this team, but an appropriate final act for a cricketer that has been a key part in some of the most entertaining moments of the modern era.

 

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Ben Karpinski is a South African sports blogger/MC/tweeter with a heart so broken by the Proteas, t...

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