The Chennai Super Kings’ deployment of Faf du Plessis as an opening batsman during the 2019 Indian Premier League – and previous editions – is a solid lead for South Africa’s World Cup campaign, writes JONHENRY WILSON.
Amid growing uncertainty over Hashim Amla’s form and indecision over Aiden Markram’s position in the order, du Plessis’ promotion to the top alongside Quinton de Kock is feasible.
The move would negotiate a potential over-reliance on de Kock – and help manage an opening partnership oft-beset by Amla’s recent struggles.
‘We don’t want to rely on one player and we want allow Quinton to play the game that he wants to play,’ said du Plessis a couple of months ago.
‘The way Faf got going, I could take my time getting into rhythm. I could take a couple more balls to find my feet,’ stated Shane Watson, du Plessis’ opening partner at the Super Kings, earlier this month.
Watson’s comment effectively answers du Plessis’ quandary. Partnership with the calculated presence of the Proteas captain from the outset of the innings would balance de Kock’s aggression.
With the change, Amla could move down the order, arriving at the crease when the ball is swinging less – or be left out of the XI entirely. An additional all-rounder could therefore be selected, offsetting the problems of a bowling attack navigating recent injury to Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi.
Du Plessis, though, isn’t necessarily convinced Chennai’s choice can be mirrored by the Proteas. But circumstances might dictate otherwise, particularly if Amla or de Kock is struggling, Markram is really at home in the middle order – and an opening alternative is required.
‘Obviously, my Proteas career, I’ve always batted three and four. So the first time I really got an opportunity to open was with Chennai, because that’s where the gap is. So the opportunity for me was to open the batting. In the South African team, I bat at three – it’s probably my best role. It was good for me to just grow my game, just batting different circumstances,’ he said.
The quintessential example of a batsman who successfully swapped the middle for the top of the order in ODI cricket, Rohit Sharma recently stated: ‘I feel the guys who play IPL and go play big tournaments right after that, they’re very much in touch with their game. The IPL is a big tournament and you can judge yourself where you’re at before a big tournament like the World Cup.’
Regardless of where in the order du Plessis bats, Sharma’s words need to be evidenced by an excellent World Cup campaign from the one South African batsman who outshone the rest – bar de Kock – at the Indian Premier League.
Photo: SPORTZPICS for BCCI