'They're hurting' - Faf du Plessis on the suddenly touchy-feely Aussies
It’s no secret that Faf du Plessis understands Australians better than most South Africans.
Maybe that’s part of the reason why he has‚ as South Africa’s captain‚ reeled off four consecutive series wins against the Aussies — in Test and one-day series‚ home and away.
For good measure‚ he added victory in the one-off T20 between the teams at Carrara in Queensland on Saturday.
That marked the end of Du Plessis’ first visit to Australia since March‚ when Steve Smith‚ David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were exposed as ball-tamperers during the Newlands Test.
With that Australian cricket was plunged into a pit of painful introspection from which it has yet to emerge.
Reviews into the culture of the game have formed a backdrop to a slew of forced and voluntary personnel changes‚ and softened the experience of playing in Australia for visiting teams.
“They were tame; you could sense why‚” Du Plessis said about the reception the South Africans received from the hitherto über aggressive Australian players.
“It’s difficult to experience the hurt that Australian cricket is going through if you’re not there; the public is angry at what happened.”
Cricket Australia (CA) swiftly banned Smith‚ Warner and Bancroft for between nine months to a year — significantly more serious punishment than what they copped from the International Cricket Council‚ and that has been considered heavy-handed in South Africa and beyond.
“CA have been firm in the sanctions they handed down‚” Du Plessis said.
“A lot of people asked them to change them but they have remained firm because they see how much it has affected the general support. They were really hurt.”
What was it like playing against suddenly touchy-feely Aussies‚ and how long might that last?
“You understand why they are doing it‚” Du Plessis said.
“You understand why they want to play a different brand of cricket.
“There are a lot of eyes on them; the style they play and the way they carry themselves as cricketers but also as people. I understand where it’s coming from.
“They’ve got really good cricketers and they’ll find out over the next six months or so if it’s really something they believe in.”
Not that he was going soft on the opponents who have come down the hardest on South Africa over the years.
“I remember like it was yesterday about the pain and the hurt and the embarrassment and the scars [other South Africa teams] got in Australia; about always going there and always losing.
“It’s been something that motivated me. I love playing there‚ it brings the best out of me.
“Always‚ when there’s a fight‚ it brings the best out of my character. I’m trying to find that same recipe when I play against other people. Maybe I must go pick a fight.”
Or hope to meet Australia in‚ say‚ a World Cup final before they’re hit over the head and remember who and what they were and will be again.