Faf du Plessis has been successful as captain of South Africa winning series against New Zealand and Australia    Getty Images
Faf du Plessis has been successful as captain of South Africa winning series against New Zealand and Australia Getty Images

What is Faf du Plessis about? Swift reflexes? Swag? Fitness? Temperament? Cheeky comments on teammates? Ball-tampering allegations? Du Plessis was welcomed with boos when he entered his favourite venue and was provided a fitting send-off with a round of applause. It has barely been a week since television cameras caught him guilty of manhandling the ball, as a result of which he was penalised by ICC. On Friday evening, the Australian bowlers were left baffled. Adelaide Oval, finally, welcomed their lost hero. The chewing of mint that began at home ended in the Southern land: Australia s ODI whitewash was followed by 2-1 Test series victory on Australian soil. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: Australia vs South Africa, 3rd Test at Adelaide

Holy-Moly-Lolly

To begin with, Australia were down 0-2 against South Africa in a three-Test series. Then a video clip surfaced, which portrayed du Plessis applying saliva with a lollipop in his mouth. Eyebrows were raised; heated discussions took place; but Faf remained unfazed. The team, especially Hashim Amla, came out in his support. Twitterati, on the other hand, exploded in protest.

ICC found Faf Guilty of ball-tampering. The hearing dates were scheduled. Du Plessis pleaded guilty and was given consent to play the final Test minus his match fee. Dale Steyn could not have found better words to sum up the situation:

Beaten with the bat.

Beaten with the ball.

Beaten in the field.

Mentally stronger.

Here’s an idea, let’s blame it on a lollipop #soft

 

The fiasco had more twists to it. Du Plessis was once again charged for his aggression the moment he landed at Adelaide. A group of Australian reporters was seen forcefully harassing du Plessis, ultimately landing in physical confrontation. That explained the boos and oh from the Adelaide spectators.

The mint did not spare Virat Kohli as well. Another video surfaced on the internet, this time alleging Kohli applying saliva on the ball with mint in his mouth. The evidence was insufficient.

Adelaide saga continues with a twist

Let s rewind to November 24, 2012. The venue was the same, as was the man albeit taking his first steps in the Test arena. Up against 430, South Africa were 45 for 4. Australia were on top. A win was out of the equation. Survival was the only way out. They had to see off five sessions. They had batted a mere 21 overs.

Du Plessis had already scored 78 in the first innings. This time he batted for almost eight hours. Support came from AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis. He remained unbeaten on 110. South Africa saved the Test. He became the first South African and 15th cricketer in history to score a hundred and a fifty on Test debut. Adelaide Oval saw the rise of new hero.

On Friday, he was welcomed with the boos and oh when South Africa were brought down to 44 for 3. It was a different Adelaide Oval this time. He had a point to prove. He had already established himself as a more-than-efficient captain, but he still had to prove his mettle as a batsman in the longest format. That hundred on debut at Adelaide had remained his only overseas hundred for four years.

He looked more focused this time. It was not merely a battle against the bowlers: he was up against a hostile crowd, and more importantly, against himself.

And Friday, November 24 belonged to Faf du Plessis on the same Adelaide Oval.

Du Plessis had all the reasons to smile and celebrate, until the same Adelaide disappointed their hero: I was really disappointed when I was hundred and I heard the crowd boo. So I was a little bit disappointed with that, but I understand you can go a little bit over the top with things like that.

Du Plessis innocence spoke and he articulated his century at Adelaide as most memorable hundred of his career.

The captain knows it all

Captaincy is not merely about leading for the front. The captain needs to strategise, to take clever decisions. Du Plessis overheard Steven Smith s discussion with the umpires on David Warner s eligibility to bat for the rest of the day. He declared on 259 for 9. With Usman Khawaja and newbie Matt Renshaw set to open the innings for Australia, du Plessis had all the plans to run through the Australian line-up.

The decision eventually backfired. The Australian openers survived the initial overs. But the decision made complete sense. His critics could not help but praise the captain for an instant decision. Stuart Clark even hailed it as a good heads-up piece of play from Faf du Plessis .

It takes us back to the time when Michael Clarke took a similar decision during the series against India in 2013. A declaration at 237 for 9 was a bold move then, although it all did not go well for Australia as India won by an innings and 135 runs. History repeated itself, the only difference being that the South African captain was at the receiving end this time.

***

Du Plessis was labelled a cheat when he entered Adelaide Oval. He was entered aggressive despite being harassed by the reporters. Newspapers, cricket portals, social media added their own analogies on du Plessis allegations. Nothing mattered.

Du Plessis mingles with his teammates more than the previous captains. It was in Adelaide Oval where he had gained recognition.

He had a point to prove. He had to silence the ones who booed him initially. And when that did not come, he concluded subtly: Thanks for the love the last week. I never thought that I am that famous that I can make the headlines every day. That was a pretty cool experience.

Cricket, it is about time you put those cool blue shades on.

(Shruti Hariharan is a Content Writer with CricketCountry. You can follow her on Twitter at @Shruti_2890)