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Bring in new blood

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Outgoing South African skipper Faf du Plessis knows a new era for the Proteas needs a new leader

SOUTH African cricket closed a chapter at 9:28am yesterday morning. Faf du Plessis stood down with immediate effect from all Proteas leadership positions.

Although Quinton de Kock had already permanently replaced Du Plessis as the Proteas ODI skipper, Du Plessis was still officially in charge of the T20I and Test teams.

De Kock, who has led the Proteas in their last T20I series in the absence of Du Plessis, will now assume all white-ball leadership positions in the build-up to the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia later this year.

Du Plessis (35) has not retired altogether though and remains committed to playing all three formats for the Proteas.

“This was one of the toughest decisions to make, but I remain fully committed to supporting Quinton, Mark [Boucher] and my teammates as we continue to rebuild and re-align as a group,” Du Plessis said.

“South African cricket has entered a new era. New leadership, new faces, new challenges and new strategies. I remain committed to play in all three formats of the game for now as a player, and will offer my knowledge and time to the new leaders of the team.

Du Plessis will be remembered as one of the Proteas most successful captains, having won 18 of 36 Tests, 28 of 39 ODIs and 23 of 37 T20Is. His most meaningful successes were achieved against the arch-enemy Australia, where he remains the only ever global captain to beat the Aussies home and away across all three formats.

However, the past 12 months has taken an enormous toll on Du Plessis. Unable to divorce himself from Cricket SA’s boardroom struggles during this period, Du Plessis, as the leader of the Proteas, found himself entangled in the mess too often for his liking.

It had a major bearing on the national team’s performance as the Proteas firstly suffered an embarrassing home Test series defeat to Sri Lanka – the first time an Asian nation has won in South Africa – followed by a dismal World Cup performance in England.

The troubles escalated after the World Cup when a mass exodus of senior players occurred with Hashim Amla, JP Duminy and Dale Steyn – from Test cricket – all retiring leaving a vacuum of experience and more responsibility on Du Plessis’ shoulders.

Du Plessis continued to fight on, even after the axing of coach Ottis Gibson, but ultimately it proved too much with the Proteas whitewashed 3-0 in India and losing 3-1 to England at home.

“After the 2019 ICC World Cup, I made the decision to continue in my role as captain while the team went through a rebuilding phase following the retirement of some key senior players and a complete overhaul of the coaching staff that we had worked with until then.

“I have never been one to throw in the towel and do believe I am putting the team first and believe we have to stick through the tough times to get to the good times,” Du Plessis said.

“It was important to me that I stayed to help the team find its feet and plot a new way forward while assisting in identifying the next generation of leaders within the players’ group during a time of turbulence in SA cricket. The last season of my captaincy has been the most challenging to date as I had a lot of off-field issues that I devoted my energy towards.”