Is it fair for Faf du Plessis to blame the pitches in the subcontinent for his team's failures?
Ottis Gibson’s appointment as the head coach of South Africa changed the national team’s approach towards the Test format. Gibson wanted to emulate the famous West Indies ‘Quartet’ of the 1980s; the presence of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Lungi Ngidi tempted Gibson to make this decision.
In fact, Gibson’s dream is to field all the five bowlers at the same time. Unfortunately though, Steyn’s untimely injury and Morkel’s retirement made Gibson’s dream a dream forever.
Faf du Plessis, the South African captain, backed his coach’s ideology. Since South Africa had four consecutive ‘home’ Test series, Faf requested the groundsmen to prepare pitches in favor of his seamers.
As expected, they won all four of their home series. However, there lies a small glitch in their approach; the pitch doesn’t know which team’s pacer is bowling.
South Africa's approach backfired during the India series as the Indian pacers fought toe-to-toe with the South African pacers. If not for the sub-par show by the Indian batters in the first two matches, India could have easily won that series.
Du Plessis, however, was delighted with his team’s performance and heaped praised on his bowlers for doing a perfect job.
After a year-long dominance in their home, South Africa finally stepped out of their comfort zone and entered into the venue the fear the most - the ‘subcontinent’. As expected, they were humiliated by the Sri Lankan spinners. Their batsmen lacked application and temperament.
At the end of the series, the South African players blamed the practice matches for their dismal performances. Du Plessis in particular went one step ahead; he asked for the traditional ‘toss’ system to be scrapped in the longer format.
Only a year ago, Du Plessis had instructed his home staff to prepare the pitches in his favor. He wanted the conditions to favor the ‘home’ team. Now, the same Du Plessis is requesting the ICC to scrap the ‘toss’ system.
In other words, he wants to remove the practice of teams utilizing ‘home advantage’.
This is the same person who enjoyed his team's victory when they thrashed the hapless Zimbabwe in a 4-day/night match affair. He is the same person who celebrated the success when they thrashed a de-motivated Bangladesh team. Now, he is finding excuses and giving reasons for his team’s poor performances.
It is time that Du Plessis understood the pain of Mushfiqur Rahim.
Any international cricketer will have a specific weakness in their technique. Upon every failure, they should work hard on their faults and try to perform better in the forthcoming series. That is the difference between a ‘legend’ and a ‘player’.
Instead of improving their game against spin though, the South African batsmen are playing the blame game. Is this fair, Mr. Faf du Plessis?