Could the career of captain Faf du Plessis be coming to an abrupt halt as the Proteas went 2-1 down to England in Port Elizabeth, asks ANDRE HUISAMEN.
It was the question posed to coach Mark Boucher after his batting lineup collapsed once again on day four of the third Test against England at St George’s Park.
Du Plessis, famous for grinding and fighting out for survival, failed to replicate any one of his memorable knocks that formed the backbone of his proud record in Test cricket.
The 35-year-old has been drastically short of runs in recent times with the 36 on Sunday his highest of the series.
His second innings dismissal to the part-time spin of Joe Root saw a very disappointed Du Plessis stroll from the middle at St George’s pitch knowing all too well that the Proteas are on the brink of suffering one of their worst Test defeats in history.
Du Plessis, who normally cuts a positive, confident figure even when his team is under pressure or on the back foot, seems now to have run out of ideas and time.
To his credit, he has consistently defended his coaches and teammates in what was a difficult time for him as a player and person.
But the tide has turned.
An embarrassing Test series defeat to Sri Lanka was followed by a disastrous Cricket World Cup in England.
Du Plessis stood tall and proud because that is the type of character he has as a competitor.
An encouraging first victory over the English in Centurion in late December aside, the question marks have began to filter through regarding not only his captaincy but also his place as a batsman.
With a series of retirements hampering the growth of the Test team – team stalwart Vernon Philander is about to join that group – Du Plessis is pretty much the only remaining figure of the times where the Proteas where at the top of the red ball game.
The uncertainty of his future remains vague to onlookers and to Mark Boucher, who indicated that he has ‘no clue’ as to what the future may hold for the right handed batsman.
‘He hasn’t said anything, I don’t think so,’ was the former wicketkeeper’s words. Then again there was no clear indication given when the South African squad saw the retirements of AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn and Philander.
Under the new Boucher era, Du Plessis may now feel it’s time for a fresh start; both with the captain’s armband and a place in the fragile middle order.
He has previously been untouchable with his weight of runs and man-management. Both are now a major concern.
His decisions on the field have been questioned time and time again as England look set to move into a 2-1 series lead. His shot-making dubious and lack of runs smothering any positive signs.
‘He’ll sit back in the changeroom and look at the situation and be disappointed in his performance today and in the Test match,’ added Boucher.
Whether Du Plessis will continue in his post after the Wanderers appears now to be the hottest topic in SA cricket.
His 36 in the second innings in Por Elizabeth saw a glimpse of hope for Boucher.
‘I’m sure he’ll take confidence from being out there in the middle and facing a few balls.’
Too little too late? We’ll know in a few weeks.