Sunday, January 26, 2020

Is Faf du Plessis done?

In boxing they say Father Time is undefeated, an idiom which  essentially means that there is no fighter alive who has ever managed to defeat the onslaught of the passage of time. Reflexes get slower, the ability for the brain to tell the body what it's seeing slows just enough to allow gaps that were once huge openings now pass by without incident. 

Twelve months ago, Faf du Plessis would have been on top of the world. Sure, South Africa had just lost to Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, but they had beaten both Australia and India within 3 months of each other, and then they would go on to whitewash Pakistan to complete a rare series whitewash. There could have been an argument that had du Plessis retired then and there, he would arguably have been South Africa's greatest Test match cricket captain of all time.

 What happened next beggars belief. Firstly, Sri Lanka came to town. At the time, Sri Lanka had lost five Test matches in a row, and had only ever won one Test match in South Africa. To make matters worse, they would be touring without Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal. Not only their two most experienced players, but also their best batsmen. Didn't matter. Sri Lanka first won the first Test from one of the most improbable positions of all time, thanks to arguably the greatest Test match innings of all time from one Kusal Perera. Then they beat the brakes off a vaunted pace attack in the fourth innings of the second Test to chase down 200 without the loss of a single wicket. A disastrous World Cup followed before South Africa truly experienced darkness. As we speak it appears South Africa are about to lose their seventh Test of the summer. They've played eight. It's been a disastrous summer. That's not even taking into account the changes in the leadership structures which have seen South Africa lose major sponsors as well as half the board of directors.

All of this would be bad enough for du Plessis if he was at least scoring runs. But he isn't. He averages 19 this summer. He hasn't scored a hundred. He has not been selected for the ODI squad playing. It's hard to make a case for a captain with his recent record to stay captain, and even harder for a player with his record to stay in the team. When the two phenomena coalesce to a player who both averages 19 in his last 7 Tests, as well a captain with eight losses in his last nine... It becomes a hard sell to justify his continued play in the side. Thanks for everything Faf, we'll always have Adelaide.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Superman Returns? Very possibly

In possibly the least surprising about turn of all time, especially considering he tried a very similar change of plan a season ago, AB de Villiers has once again raised the possibility of a return to international cricket. de Villiers, who is in Australia for the Big Bash League, confirmed in a press conference that he is in discussion with the new hierarchy in charge of South African cricket to possibly play in the T20 world cup.

"There's a lot that needs to happen before that becomes reality, I would love to," de Villers said after making a fine 32-ball 40 in Brisbane's win over Adelaide Strikers. "I've been talking to Bouch, Graeme Smith and Faf back home. We are all keen to make it happen, it's a long way away still and plenty can happen - there's the IPL coming, I've still got to be in form at that time. I'm thinking of throwing my name in the hat and hoping everything will work out.

"It's not a guarantee, I don't want to disappoint myself or other people, so for now I'm just going to try and keep a low profile, play the best possible cricket I can and we'll see what happens towards the end of the year."

As the man himself says, it is not a guarantee. AB has not played international cricket since March 2018, which is a long to spend feasting on the substandard bowling which largely makes up the T20 cricket circuit. Even so, it is a fact that he has been in red hot form in these leagues. He racked up an impressive 325 runs at a strike rate of 152.5 in the Mzansi Super League at an average of 46.42. Similarly, he was imperious in the IPL with 442 runs at an average of 44.2 and a strike rate of 154. Finally in the T20 Blast, he was simply unplayable, with 348 runs at a scarcely believable average fo 69.6 with his strike rate at a whopping 183.

To the couch for Bouch

There is an old saying in Tennessee, I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says, we will tolerate you until we can replace ...