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Cricket World Cup 2019

World Cup exit the lowest point in Faf du Plessis’ career

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis called his team’s early exit from the 2019 World Cup as the lowest point in his captaincy career and said that their performance in the tournament has been embarrassing.

South Africa suffered their fifth defeat in seven matches in the tournament, when they lost to Pakistan by 49 runs on Sunday, June 23. In the process, they became the second team to bow out of this year’s edition, after Afghanistan, who are, co-incidentally, the only team they have beaten.

“Yes, definitely [it is the lowest point],” du Plessis said. “I’m a very proud player and captain, and playing for South Africa means a lot for me. And the fact that the results we’re dishing out at the moment… you know, it’s really, really tough, and borderline… today, it’s a little bit embarrassing. We’re trying, but it’s just not good enough. Obviously, I’m human as well, so it will keep chipping at me.

“It’s important that the coach, myself, the senior players, are the guys that need to front up to this challenge. That’s when your players need you the most. So right now, I need to be there for the other players as well.”

Du Plessis was especially put off by the fact that South Africa haven’t learned from their mistakes in the tournament. Their performance on Sunday isn’t anything that hasn’t already been seen in the tournament.

Barring Imran Tahir and, to a certain extent, Chris Morris, none of South Africa’s bowlers has looked incisive. Having already taken a hit due to injuries to Anrich Nortje first and Dale Steyn later, South Africa needed Kagiso Rabada to turn his performances up a few notches, but even he has failed to do that, averaging over 50 runs per scalp.

Their batting, too, has let them down as they have failed to string together substantial partnerships. The issues run from the top down, with Quinton de Kock far from his belligerent usual self and Hashim Amla enduring a woeful run of form.

Rassie van der Dussen has shown sparks of his potential with a pair of half-centuries, but they have made for scant compensation with the rest of the order flagging. Between them, South Africa’s batsmen haven’t managed a single century all tournament.

“I feel we keep making the same mistakes over and over again,” du Plessis said. “Probably started off with the bowling. Our bowling has been the one thing that’s been working this tournament, and today, a well below par performance, probably bar Immy [Tahir], who was exceptional once again.”

“But the rest of the guys, probably, you know, five-out-of-ten performance with the ball, 30 runs too many, and the same thing with the bat once again. We’re starting our innings losing wickets again and then we build something nicely, get a partnership going, and then wicket and then wicket.”

The miserable World Cup campaign has been a blot on the otherwise stellar careers of some of South Africa’s senior players. This tournament will see the last of Tahir and JP Duminy, who have called time on their one-day careers, but more could follow suit, with Amla looking a shell of his past self and Steyn’s repeated injuries giving rise to serious questions about his durability at this level anymore.

“Yeah, I’d be lying if I say no [that the campaign has affected the players’ legacies]. I think, as I said, as a player, I’m very proud. But I’ve always said that my most enjoyment that I get from the game, playing for South Africa, is captaining the side. The fact that we are really underperforming, as I said, chips away at me. It’s really important for me.

“I love captaining this team, and the fact that we are playing way, way below our potential is not something that sits with me well. There’s too much pride for me, and that’s why… I mean, I’m trying as much as I can, but unfortunately, not everything is in my hands. You know, if I could, I would get my wand out and get some runs on the table for our batters, but I can’t, unfortunately.

“So it is a challenge, and my character is one that will try and fix as many problems as I can, and try and control the areas that I can, but unfortunately, I can’t control everything.”

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