Wednesday, October 9, 2019

When the going gets Faf, the Faf gets going


It's something of a meme, but Faf du Plessis has a reputation for being the most alpha human being to ever don a Protea jersey. You can see why too. His first Test match: Scored an unbeaten hundred to see out an unlikely draw in Adelaide. His First World Cup: Nearly gets into a fist fight with Darryl Tuffey. Nearly gets suspended after Mintgate, and has to bat in a Day/Night Test: Boom a Test match hundred. du Plessis has a reputation for being something of a tough guy in cricketing circles. Not in that "thuggish brute" sense, where you're basically calling someone dirty; more in the sense that when the going gets Faf, the Faf get going. He's cricket's Chuck Norris is what I am trying to say.

On a different, but very related note, the gold standard for an elite batsman is an average of 50. South Africa's number 3 and 4 combined average 50. Once South Africa lose an early wicket, it becomes very apparent that they will very quickly be losing two more because our top order is less paper mache and more a house of cards in the middle of a hurricane. Both Temba Bavuma and Theunis de Bruyn are possibly quality players, and they may eventually go on to destroy batting attacks for years to come. At the moment however, they couldn't get be relied on to score runs. They cannot even be relied to bat time.

By contrast, Faf du Plessis is slap bang in the middle of a purple patch, arguably the most purple of patches in his entire career. If not Quinton de Kock, who has the gloves, and will have the gloves for the foreseeable future, it's undoubtable that du Plessis is the best batsman in the team. Your best batsman bats at number three, or at a push, four. Yet du Plessis bats five, and the two batsmen above him are like, really bad at batting at the moment. So why is Mr. du Plessis batting at five? In his own words,  "The reason why I initially moved to No. 5 was probably because I was more equipped to play both roles, in the middle and in the beginning. When you are batting with the tail, I can take the game on a bit, similar to Quinton [de Kock]. That's the reason for it - to try and split up your experience and your younger players up.".

So firstly, outside of de Bruyn, literally no one else in that top 6 could be called inexperienced. They don't have a lot of runs, but that's a function of them being poor, not them being inexperienced. Bavuma is creeping on 40 Tests, Elgar has 57, de Kock has 41, Even Markram already has 15. That's a top six that combines for nearly 210 Tests, just under 35 Tests a player. Unfortunately they only combine for a little more than 30 Test centuries. Not particularly inexperienced, just particularly unproductive.

With all that in mind, Faf du Plessis should bat four, or even three. There is no logical reason to intentionally put your "inexperienced" players in at three AND at four, moreso when neither of them can score runs. I don't think du Plessis is afraid of batting four, as previously mentioned, du Plessis is Test cricket's resident tough guy. I just think he's looked at an interpretation picture and seen an inexperienced line up when it's clearly just a poor one.

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