World XI captain has come long way in six years – but Pakistan?
This time six years ago Faf du Plessis had his nose pressed to the shop window of international cricket‚ desperate to get in and stay in.
Now he owns the shop. 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.
You could argue that the only reason those players were willing to go to Pakistan is that they will‚ apparently‚ earn US$100 000 (R1.3-million) each for their trouble – or $33 333.33 (R434 000) a match‚ $5 000 (R65 100) an innings and $833.33 (R10 854) an over.
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 SA in London in July.
You could argue that people as passionate for cricket as Pakistanis are, deserve to see the side they idolise play at home.
Before Monday, they had done so only five times since a terror attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009 – and never mind 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 no difference to the bigger picture.
But you could not argue that Du Plessis does not deserve the credit he is earning as a leader. Actually‚ you could. But you would lose.
At a news conference in Lahore‚ he made a case for why he was in Pakistan.
“It’s a huge honour to be here as it’s not often that you are playing cricket in a cause which is much bigger than the game‚” he 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 has 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.
There is still no better captain anywhere in the game.
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. But Pakistan? Really?