TELFORD VICE, Adelaide
THE last time Faf du Plessis played cricket in Adelaide he was hailed as a hero across Australia. On Thursday, when he leads South Africa in the third test, he will be the nation’s newest villain.
Du Plessis’ only game in Adelaide to date was his test debut in November 2012. After scoring 78 in the first innings, he regaled even the hard-nosed Aussie media with his story of how he tripped on his way down the dressingroom stairs on his way to the crease, lost a boot and feared he may be timed out.
“I had to kneel in front of the whole crowd while they were abusing me from both sides,” Du Plessis said then. “They were much better when I came back.”
No chance of that happening this time. Any sight of Du Plessis is likely to bring out the worst in a crowd who will know only too well that South Africa’s captain was found guilty of ball-tampering on Tuesday. And for the second time in four years.
Or, as a waitress said in a restaurant just across the Torrens River from the modern magnificence of Adelaide Oval even as one reporter banged out his last piece of the day, “Ah yes. Him. The cheat.”
That Du Plessis is playing at all is only by dint of match referee Andy Pycroft’s decision to dock him his entire match fee and lump him with three demerit points.
Another demerit point and he would have been banned.
Bad enough. But it could get worse.
South Africa team management confirmed last night that Du Plessis plans to appeal. That means a new hearing in front of a new arbiter – in this case a judicial commissioner – and, potentially, a different verdict. And, if Du Plessis is found guilty again, a different and potentially heavier sentence.
Clearly, the man believes he is innocent. So, clearly, do the rest of the South African squad and their management – why else would they line-up, unsolicited, behind Hashim Amla in Melbourne to say so? How else does their security guard, Zunaid Wadee, justify thudding reporters into windows at Adelaide airport?
And all because Du Plessis was captured on video during the Hobart test with his fingers in his mouth – which also contained what looked like a sweet or a mint, and then applied those fingers to the ball.
Which, of course, is in contravention of law 42.3 because it means he has used an artificial substance to help polish the ball.
“After hearing representations from both parties and evidence from the umpires (Aleem Dar and Richard Kettleborough) in the second test as well as Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) head of cricket John Stephenson, Mr Pycroft found Mr Du Plessis guilty of the offence,” the International Cricket Council (ICC) said in a release.
“The decision was based on the evidence given from the umpires, who confirmed that had they seen the incident they would have taken action immediately, and from Mr Stephenson, who confirmed the view of MCC that the television footage showed an artificial substance being transferred to the ball.”
Oh, and “if Mr du Plessis reaches four or more demerit points within a 24-month period, they will be converted into suspension points and he will be banned”.
“Two suspension points equate to a ban from one test or two one-day internationals or two T20 internationals, whatever comes first for the player.”
What came first for this particular player was that half-century four years ago.
Then, in the second innings, he made a century for the ages, a performance of wonderful grit and character that besides saving the match endeared him to Australians far and wide as a man of substance.
Perhaps they still do. Difference is, now that substance is spit.