Faf du Plessis will likely be named Men’s Cricketer of the Year at Saturday’s Cricket South Africa annual awards. Fellow nominees Quinton de Kock, Imran Tahir and Kagiso Rabada didn’t do enough to truly justify claiming the award ahead of the Proteas captain.
Du Plessis averaged 41.10 across six Tests during the voting period, which spanned June 2018 to the same month this year. The same 12 months yielded 1028 runs over 25 ODIs for an average of 60.47 – a full 13 more than a career aggregate of 47.47. Five T20Is, meanwhile, brought 172 runs at 34.4.
His statistics with the bat over this term were impressive enough. Du Plessis’ captaincy record for the 2018-19 season, though, will face tough judgement. The Proteas won four of six Tests under his command, including twin series whitewashes to Sri Lanka – a team significantly inferior in the International’s rankings for the longest format of the international game.
Those 25 ODIs brought eight defeats – five at a World Cup the Proteas were quietly tipped to genuinely challenge for the title. That was promptly undone by consecutive defeats to England, Bangladesh and India – and later two more versus New Zealand and Pakistan. Intriguingly, South Africa’s World Cup win over Australia on 6 July – on the back of a fine century from du Plessis – sat outside of the voting period.
Du Plessis was undefeated in the T20Is, but this unblemished record in the shortest format effectively has the least weighting. It shows, too, in his Test Cricketer of the Year and ODI Cricketer of the Year nominations, but absence from the T20I Cricketer of the Year category.
Regardless, du Plessis was steadfast throughout the last 12 months – and admittedly tumultuous time for South African cricket, particularly these past two months. Popularity among his peers will almost certainly result in the Players’ Player of the Year accolade as well. Du Plessis detractors, though, will likely opt for Rabada as the Fans’ Player of the Year.
Significantly, du Plessis’ job is evidently secure, while coach Ottis Gibson will probably depart. Cricket South Africa, though, would do well to lighten du Plessis’ workload to avoid a repeat of predecessor AB de Villiers’ purported fickleness over fixture choice. If du Plessis’ Proteas career is to be extended – amid the temptation of Kolpak cricket and the global T20 circuit by other former national captains – splitting the role is necessary.
England have struck the right balance with Eoin Morgan and Joe Root as limited-overs and Test captain, respectively. Australia have done the same with Aaron Finch and Tim Paine in charge of the limited-overs and Test units, respectively. South Africa’s conundrum, though, is a lack of standout candidate to succeed du Plessis in either format.
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