TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
PERHAPS the Himalayan mountain air got to Faf du Plessis in Dharamsala yesterday. Perhaps he knows how to get the locals on his side. Or perhaps he is among that rare breed of prominent player who knows there is a world beyond the boundary.
Whatever it was, Du Plessis departed from the drivel dished up by too many captains at pre-match press conferences to say: “In India, for me as a person, I have learnt the most just from general respect and treating people the way you should.
“Indian people, as a culture, are the friendliest people around. I have mentioned it to the team, to say really open your eyes and try and listen because there is so much you can learn from people here.
“I love coming here, I love playing cricket here and I know the whole team feels the same way.”
How very Kumbaya of the man who will lead SA in the first Twenty20 against India today. But the fact is Du Plessis has made an annual pilgrimage to the Indian Premier League (IPL) since 2011 and has played more than twice as many matches for Chennai Super Kings than he has T20s for SA: 53 versus 24.
“From a skill perspective I have learnt a lot from batting in these conditions and practising every day against the world’s best spin bowlers. I have taken a lot from the IPL; I think its a great tournament.”
The other nine members of SA’s squad of 15 who have also featured in the IPL would no doubt agree. But might all that fraternising between players from a range of countries dull the sharpness of contests at international level?
“It doesn’t take away the edge to win or the competitiveness on the field,” Du Plessis said. “The boundary of right and wrong doesn’t get crossed as much anymore, but when I am batting I am trying to hit you for six or four; I am trying to win the game.”
Still, Du Plessis hoped IPL experience would be relevant for SA’s players on a tour that will last 72 days.
“Any place that’s not home that you are touring for a long time can be quite tough mentally,” he said. “So we can fall back on our time in the IPL.
“It does get long but it’s important how you motivate your team and how you enjoy yourself away from the game.”
Not that SA will feel far from home today, despite their exotic surroundings. That’s according to Indian captain MS Dhoni: “The pitch here has some pace, and you can compare it a little bit to Joburg in terms of how the ball carries. When you hit it, it travels much faster.”
None of SA’s 80 T20 internationals have been played in India. But the Indians have featured in only two this year – against easybeats Zimbabwe – while SA have been involved in seven, four of them won.
That prompted Dhoni also to pin his faith to the IPL: “We play the IPL so we play a lot of T20 matches together and we know what needs to be done.”
So does Du Plessis – thanks to the IPL.