Nothing compares to test cricket - Faf
Faf du Plessis seized his opportunity to play test cricket with more vigour than anyone in South Africa’s recent history.
Innings of 78 in Adelaide followed by an unbeaten 110 in over seven and a half hours went further than anyone towards ensuring an unlikely draw at the end of the second test in Adelaide, and his fighting 78 not out in Perth helped South Africa to a respectable 225 in their first innings.
Although Michael Clarke was understandably awarded the man-of-the-series award for scoring two double centuries, the Proteas felt that Du Plessis had made the greatest contribution towards the result of the series. What are Faf's thoughts on that?
Faf: I didn’t expect it at all, I wasn’t standing there thinking it could be me. A few of our guys had said to me that I would get it, if it was up to them, but they would say that! Personally I had no doubt that Michael would get it because two double hundreds in a series is just ridiculous – let alone four in a year. He thoroughly deserved it. He should have been the only contender.
Q: Nonetheless, you can’t deny your impact on the series?
Faf: Well, we had our traditional end-of-tour party, the ‘fines meeting’, where we had a few beers and reflected on everything. Again, the guys said they thought I should have got the award, but they’re just going with their teammate.
Q: The whole squad were seen many hours after the game in a huddle in the centre of the Waca…
Faf: That was just a singalong – the traditional team song. They did it four years ago at the MCG when they’d won the series, so that will be a lovely memory to take back to South Africa.
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Q: What will you do when you get home?
Faf: I would love to go home tonight with the team but I’m staying here to play one more, a Big Bash game for the Melbourne Renegades. It depends what happens with the Titans at home, whether they make the semifinals of the one-day cup at home. If they do then I will play here on the 7th, fly back on the 8th and land on the 9th – and play the semifinal on the 9th.
Q: Do you need a break?
Faf: The semifinal for the Titans is obviously a very big game, and the final, so I would definitely like a break after the final – after we have won it!
Q: Why did you want to play for Melbourne Renegades?
Faf: I would like to play in these high-profile tournaments around the world and this is a rare opportunity. The only reason we can play this time is because we are already in Australia. The timings just wouldn’t have worked if we were back in South Africa. One game is perfect, it gives me plenty of time to get back and prepare for our home international season which begins on the 21st.
Q: Why do teams like the Renegades and the Heat want to employ you and Dale Steyn for just one game?
Faf: I think it has something to do with the fact that you can employ four overseas players – but play only two. So I think they are keen to have a couple of overseas players registered with them so that, if they do qualify for the Champions League then I could play for them, or Dale could play for the Heat, if we don’t qualify with another team. So one game may not mean much on the face of it, and I’m sure some locals will say it’s not the right thing to do, but there is a reason for it.
Q: What did you learn about test cricket?
Faf: That it’s definitely the form of the game you want to be playing! Everyone always says that test cricket is ‘real’, that it’s proper cricket and that nothing else compares to it. Now that I have tasted it, I completely agree. I’m not taking anything away from the other forms of the game, but I thoroughly enjoy them, too, but physically and mentally nothing compares. After five days of battle, like we had at Adelaide, you feel like you have run The Comrades. The last hour in Adelaide was the greatest physical and mental challenge I have ever faced.
Q: Were you aware that scoring a hundred might make your rearguard action more memorable than, say, if you’d finished on 89 not out?
Faf: I don’t think so. It didn’t matter how many runs I scored, it was all about the time I spent at the crease. AB scored 30-odd but so what? It was the 220 balls and four hours that he took out of the game, and the partnership he built with me that mattered in the end. I loved scoring a hundred – don’t get me wrong! But you could see from my ‘celebration’ that I knew there was still a lot left to do.
Q: The series started slowly and built to a crescendo – is that how it felt to you?
Faf: The Aussies put us under serious pressure, most of the time, and they dominated so many sessions. When they got the momentum they really, really punished us, it was all we could do to hang on. We all had a very strong sense after Adelaide that the Aussies had thrown everything they got in their armoury at us, and we had not fallen – we survived. We felt that it was too much for them to come back at us another time. They had thrown too many punches, and our time was going to come. And that’s the way it happened, they started nicking the ball instead of missing it, and our bowlers were incredible after we thought we were going to be in trouble with a first innings total of 225. The way Graeme, Hash and AB batted was just…ridiculous.