Faf is the right captain‚ whatever the format. But Pakistan? Really?
This time six years ago Faf du Plessis had his nosed pressed to the shop window of international cricket‚ desperate to get in and stay in.
Now he owns the shop.
As we speak Du Plessis is in Lahore captaining a World XI in three T20s against Pakistan.
On Monday he was named South Africa’s ODI captain‚ which makes him that rarity in the modern game: at the helm of every international team for which he plays.
You could argue about the wisdom of propping up the myth of normality in a deeply abnormal society by sending a cricket team to a place like Pakistan — which remains unsafe for many who are there‚ the locals in particular.
You could argue that the only reason those players were willing to go to Pakistan is that they will‚ apparently‚ earn US$100 000 each for their trouble - or US$33 333.33 a match‚ US$5 000 an innings and US$833.33 an over.
Hope it’s worth it.
You could argue that no arguments over the rights and wrongs of mere sport are raised when terrorism rips into other‚ supposedly safer countries while teams are touring — as happened to South Africa in London in July.
You could argue that people as passionate for cricket as Pakistanis deserve to see the side they idolise play at home‚ which before Monday they had done only five times since a terror attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009 — and nevermind how many people are bombed to smithereens while the game‚ as it must‚ goes on.
You could argue that whether or not international cricket is being played in Pakistan makes not a jot of difference to the bigger picture.
But you couldn’t argue that Du Plessis doesn’t deserve the credit he is earning as a leader. Actually‚ you could. But you’d lose.
At a press conference in Lahore‚ Du Plessis himself made a case for why he was in Pakistan.
“It’s a huge honour to be here as it’s not often when you are playing cricket in a cause which is much bigger than the game‚” Du Plessis said.
“As a professional‚ numerous factors played their part. Money was one of them but what really convinced me was that as a sportsman you want to leave your footprint on the game.”
He talks a good game‚ does Du Plessis. And‚ these days‚ he has to: it’s been 21 completed innings since he last scored a century for South Africa in any format.
But players like him are measured differently.
South Africa‚ having lost their way while Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers were at the helm‚ are lucky to have Du Plessis; a born captain and a man who understands when his hour has cometh.
His aura lost some of its lustre amid South Africa’s repeated failures in England this winter‚ but there is still no better captain anywhere in the game.
This time six years ago the sum total of Du Plessis’ international experience was 10 ODIs in which he passed 50 twice and was part of the problem in another World Cup meltdown on a mad night in Dhaka.
Now‚ at 33‚ he is central to South Africa’s present and future‚ a key man every which way you look at him.
And he deserves no less. There is a calmness in his smile and a hardness in his eye that wins trust unfailingly‚ and what he does on the field is proved correct significantly more often than not.
But Pakistan? Really?