'I can’t leave the team when they need me most.'
SOUTH Africa could start the next home summer with a new Test captain after Faf du Plessis admitted the series finale against England starting on Friday at the Wanderers could be his farewell home Test.
Du Plessis’ future across formats has been under scrutiny since the disappointing World Cup last year. He has always indicated that the World T20 in Australia later this year could be his international swansong, but has now finally revealed some clarity relating to the individual formats too.
“I have committed until the T20 World Cup,” Du Plessis said. “There isn’t a lot of Test cricket left this year: one massive Test where we need everyone to be as strong as possible, (and) afterwards there is quite a big gap. I have said before, there is an opportunity to release some of the captaincy. Two Test matches in the West Indies (in July), and the rest of the year is white-ball stuff.
“Most probably after that, Test cricket will be something that won’t see me.
“That’s a decision I will make then.”
Du Plessis has been under intense pressure of late. His team are under-performing with South Africa having lost 2-1 at home to Sri Lanka last year, been white-washed in India 3-0 and now they trail England 2-1 with only one Test remaining.
Equally, his personal form in Test cricket has also been disappointing, having not scored a century in 15 innings now.
It certainly is a different world to when Du Plessis was leading the Proteas to series victories over Australia – the first South African captain to achieve this feat both home and away – and was among the team’s leading Test run-scorers. The skipper admitted he is feeling the pressure.
“I am not a robot. It does chip away at your character. You do find ways to make sure you are as strong as possible. It is like anything … it is a character-builder. You make sure you learn as much about yourself even in the toughest of times so that you can be strong for someone else.
“It is a tough time, but there is no running away from it. There is no escaping it. I am the leader of the team and it comes with the job description. There was a time when things were nice and easy, and everything was going our way. Now we are at the bottom of that wave and we have to go to work again.”
On the last England tour to South Africa four years ago, the Proteas underwent a leadership change after two Tests when Hashim Amla stood down at Newlands. AB de Villiers was installed as captain for the remainder of the series, fulfilling a “lifelong dream” but could still not prevent England from winning the series.
Du Plessis stressed that he would not “pull the plug” mid-series and will lead the Proteas into battle at the Wanderers on Friday in what will in all likelihood be his final Test in South Africa.
“I don’t think that’s what’s leadership is about. I felt that the team has needed a leader to stand up and guide the ship through a difficult time,” he said.
“If you leave the team when they need you most, that’s not my style. I have been under pressure a few times and I’ve played my best innings under pressure.
“I can’t leave the team when they need me most. We are in a transition but I can’t do it forever. For now, that’s what we need. I think it will make it worse if I say I’m out.”