Is drinking from the Proteas’ captain’s cup dan regtig so giftig that the one who is selected doesn’t want it and the one who he replaces then immediately scores his highest Test score after leaving the armband?
Yes, that’s what I tried to wrap my head around as I watched South Africa KO Sri Lanka planke toe in the Boxing Day Test at Centurion this week.
I’m going to start with the incumbent Quinton de Kock – a man who now has a 100 percent record as Test captain after beating Sri Lanka by an innings and 45 runs on Tuesday.
Already skipper of the limited- overs team, De Kock couldn’t be more adamant that taking the leadership role in the five-day game is just a temporary solution.
In a pre-match press conference, De Kock explained that the real captain will stand up soon and that they are still in the process of identifying that leader.
En wragtig, wie staan toe op as leader in die eerste game as non-captain of the national five-day team? Faf du Plessis.
Here we have a man who hasn’t reached three figures in 19 Test innings before taking the field in Centurion.
With one win in nine Tests leading up to this match and Du Plessis leading the team, he was not only under pressure as a player, but he was ridiculed for the team’s lack of results.
If anyone needed an extended break from the game just to refresh from the pressures of leading a Proteas team that comes under scrutiny 24/7, it was Faf.
He got more than a break due to lockdown and also shook off added pressure by giving away the captain’s armband.
The result? A career best 199 runs – narrowly missing out on what would have been a first double ton in 66 Tests.
Here is my problem: this was the first match since he got rid of the captain’s armband, meaning he could play with the freedom of just concentrating on his game.
In his own words after claiming the Man of the Match award, Du Plessis said something like: “I’ve been feeling good in the lead-up to the Test. The Indian Premier League was good for me.
“But this Test was unique in its own way – I haven’t played red ball cricket in a year.
“For me, it was just to make sure I get back to the basics of Test cricket... and I tried to stick with it as long as possible.”
Back to basics means Faf could concentrate on his batting – ironing out issues he felt he had.
Instead of getting to focus on perfecting his own game, the captain often gets pulled into a media storm, selection meetings, strategy meetings and the politics that goes into running a team.
Dis nie vir almal nie and if this is the sort of impact the captaincy has on a player, I have changed my views slightly on who should be captain going forward.
With Victor Mpitsang only starting as chief selector recently, I am only going to judge through his eyes after this last Test. A fresh search.
If your key players need freedom to concentrate on their games only and not the plan in its entirety, I would suggest a middle-order batsman – one who has his spot cemented in the team and can sum up situations quickly.
A player with a good cricketing brain, with calm leadership qualities and the openness to take advice from senior statesmen in his team.
Here I believe Rassie van der Dussen and Temba Bavuma are in the running.
Critics will say both those guys average just over 30 in the Test format. But I can’t see any of them being dropped anytime soon.
That also means the team has not become over-reliant on runs flowing from the bats of these two gentlemen. Dare I say, there is room in the middle order for a player to hide when he hits a bad patch, but it’s tougher to hide at the top of the order.
So I reckon the captaincy would fit either of them well.
Bavuma, with 41 Tests to his name, has the experience and he is a franchise captain.
Perhaps the armband will bring the best out of him.
Whichever way the ball bounces, Mpitsang’s choice will be an interesting one.
For now I’d suggest scratch both opening batsman Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar – they must concentrate on getting the team off to a good start – Kagiso Rabada, Quinton de Kock and Keshav Maharaj, who won’t play in every Test, off the list of candidates.
That leaves Faf, who will be there to help whoever, Bavuma, Van der Dussen and a klompie youngsters.
And suddenly the picture becomes a lot clearer.
Anyhoo, happy New Year to all of you, stay safe and chat again in 2021.
body.copy...: FREEDOM: Faf du Plessis
body.copy...: TYDELIK: Quinton de Kock
body.copy...: OPTION: Temba Bavuma