The decision to rest Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis for the last two T20Is against Pakistan is an excellent piece of team leadership by the Proteas’ brains trust, writes SIMON LEWIS.
The Proteas skipper is one of a handful of Proteas players who will already have their bags packed for England, so it makes total sense to rest the in-form skipper after what has been a busy and demanding domestic season.
Friday night’s brilliant 78 off 45 balls (6 fours, 4 sixes) by Du Plessis formed part of a record T20I stand with Reeza Hendricks as the Proteas scored a thrilling six-run win over Pakistan at Newlands.
‘I’m being rested for the last two games. I’m the only Test player that’s still playing, I was only going to play tonight’s game,’ said the Proteas skipper after Friday evening’s terrific victory.
With Quinton de Kock out of the series through injury, and World Cup certs Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, JP Duminy and Lungi Ngidi all rested or injured, it does leave the Proteas thin on experience for the last two clashes, but full credit to the team management for taking this bold stand.
Not only does it give younger players and those new to the squad (such as the deserving Janneman Malan) the chance to prove themselves without being able to rely on seasoned campaigners, it also forces some of the World Cup core players to stand up and be counted – from a performance perspective as well as through taking leadership roles.
Reeza Hendricks, David Miller and Andile Phehlukwayo will all have to be on point to ensure the Proteas withstand the force of the world’s top T20I side over the last two matches of the series. All three will also be looked to for direction by the rest of the squad.
‘There’s been a lot of cricket, especially the three format players have played a lot. Personally, this is an opportunity for me to get the tank filled up again for the Test series (to come against Sri Lanka). So there’ll be one change (for the second T20I) – a new captain will have to be decided, but we’ll try and make sure that get through the squad as best we can.’
Although it is late to still be experimenting with players for the 2019 World Cup, the masterstroke will be putting the remaining squad players under pressure to perform. After all, the last thing anyone wants to see is the Proteas being put under pressure through injury or suspension (*cough, cough* slow over rate, Faf!) during the World Cup, so testing out a new captain and placing the onus of run scoring on the remaining players is certain to pay dividends.
Of course, there is every chance this weakened team might succumb to the strong Pakistan T20I outfit, but with the ultimate prize in sight in July, it’s certainly a risk worth taking. More importantly, it represents an excellent growth opportunity for the Proteas squad.
The second T20 is on Sunday at the Wanderers, followed on Wednesday by the third and final T20 at Centurion.
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