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Faf du Plessis steps down as South Africa captain for Tests and T20Is

by Wisden Staff 4 minute read

Faf du Plessis has stepped down as South Africa captain in Tests and T20Is with immediate effect, Cricket South Africa announced on Monday, February 17.

Du Plessis’ decision comes in the aftermath of South Africa’s 1-3 defeat in the Tests against England at home, in which he was in charge. Quinton de Kock led the side in the limited-overs series, neither of which South Africa won, after du Plessis was overlooked for them.

De Kock figures to be the next man to lead South Africa, who are still coping with a generational shift in talent, following the retirements of several stalwarts, including AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn, who had all been part of their all-conquering outfit in the previous decade. De Kock had already taken over as captain in ODIs on a permanent basis as South Africa rebuild for the next 50-over World Cup, in India.

“This was one of the toughest decisions to make, but I remain fully committed to supporting Quinton, Mark [Boucher, the head coach] and my teammates, as we continue to rebuild and realign as a group,” du Plessis said of his decision. “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.

“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. 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.”

Du Plessis’ future in the game, as both captain and player, has been a topic of discussion for a while now, with South Africa having suffered a string of defeats in all three formats. They had their worst World Cup campaign by far last year, since their tournament debut in 1992. That was followed by a complete annihilation at the hands of world No.1 India, when they toured the country in September-October last year and were wiped out 3-0 in the Tests. South Africa’s downfall also coincided with a woeful drop in red-ball form for their captain, and du Plessis did admit to wanting to continue leading “in a perfect world”. But he reiterated his commitment to continue playing, with the T20 World Cup coming up in eight months’ time.

“I have strived to lead the team with dignity and authenticity during exhilarating highs and devastating lows,” du Plessis said. “I have given my everything during my tenure. In a perfect world, I would have loved to lead the team in the Tests for the rest of the season, as well as the T20 World Cup, but sometimes the most important attribute of a leader is to be selfless. I am healthy, fit, energised and motivated, and certainly see myself playing an important role in the squad for as long as I continue putting in winning performances for the team. 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.”

Jacques Faul, the acting chief executive of the CSA, extended his congratulations to du Plessis, saying: “Faf’s record as player and captain speaks for itself. He has maintained the high standards he set for himself when he made a match-saving Test match century in Australia on debut in spite of the added responsibilities and pressures that come with leadership.

“He has always reserved his best performances for when the team’s need was the greatest, as witnessed by his debut century in Australia, his century against India at the Wanderers that almost enabled the Proteas to pull off a record fourth-innings runs chase, and his century as captain in the pink-ball Test at Adelaide, when he was under enormous pressure, both on and off the field.

“His latest decision reminds us all of the manner in which he has always put the team first.”

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