TELFORD VICE, Adelaide
FIFTY-four journalists, 11 of them lurking with intent behind television cameras, had filled the press conference room at Adelaide Oval on Wednesday by the time Faf du Plessis, accompanied by Cricket South Africa chief executive Haroon Lorgat, entered stage left.
Zunaid Wadee, the security guard who caused some of the trouble by shoving a reporter who wouldn’t shut up and go away into a plate glass window, skulked on the stairs like a gargoyle made flesh.
The lights were dimmed. Recorders were readied. Beating hearts were stilled.
Du Plessis sat down a metre or two from the people who had brought evidence of his illegal ball-shining techniques in the Hobart test to the attention of the International Cricket Council (ICC), who had stopped a solitary demerit point short of banning South Africa’s captain from playing in the Adelaide test on Thursday.
Instead, they fined him 100% of his match fee. He said on Tuesday he plans to appeal, but on Wednesday Lorgat said CSA had “advised Faf to reserve his position as regards the match referee’s finding and wait for the full reasons of his decision before deciding his next step”.
In other words, calm down.
“Thanks for all the love the last week,” Du Plessis said to the assembled press. “I certainly never thought that I’m so famous that I can make the headlines every day. That was a pretty cool experience.”
Ha-ha. But Du Plessis was more serious when he argued why, despite being found guilty, he was innocent.
“I still completely disagree with that,” Du Plessis said. “I felt like I’ve done nothing wrong.
“You can look at it as ball-shining versus ball-tampering.
“For me, if you talk about ball-tampering that’s wrong – it’s picking the ball, it’s scratching the ball.
“Shining the ball is something I think all cricketers would say is not in that same space (as tampering).
“It is something that all cricketers do, and I think there will be a lot of emphasis – especially after this incident – on where the game is going, what the International Cricket Council is going to do about it.
“Certainly, if I was sitting here and talking about ball-tampering and scratching, I would have said to you guys that two wrongs don’t make a right. But I don’t believe in shining actually as being wrong.
“It’s not like I was trying to cheat or anything – I was shining the ball, and I see no problem with that.
“I question the fact that whether you shine the ball with a sweet in your mouth or whether you don’t see the sweet and the sweet is still there, I think it’s exactly the same thing.”
Besides, Du Plessis said, “90% of the time cricketers have sugary saliva, whether we’re drinking (energy or soft drinks), eating sweets, sucking on jellies, our mouths are always full of sugar”.
“It’s just such a grey area in the laws of cricket and it’s something that will now be looked at.”
Lorgat promised nothing less: “We will pick up this topic with the ICC and I also understand that the cricket committee had already earmarked this discussion. It’s important that the rules are clear and that they are consistently applied.
“There’s a big academic debate around this. I am personally aware of the pervasiveness of this issue. In fact the chief executive of the ICC (Dave Richardson) was once upon a time in the South African cricket team and I believe he was part of the brigade that shined the ball. It’s not something new but it needs to be looked at.
“We owe it to the fans and we owe it to the players that the game is properly administered and all of the laws are applied.
“We’ve seen footage of other players in exactly the same scenario. We need to understand this landscape clearly, we want to define the rules more carefully, and it must be applied properly.
“But to label people in the fashion that is being attempted is an unfortunate outcome.”
That label would be the word cheat.
“It’s never nice to be in a position like this,” Du Plessis said. “A really negative connotation is put onto ball-tampering.
“The term ‘cheat’ has been thrown around and that’s something I do not take lightly or kindly to.
“It’s something I don’t want to be associated with at all in any space. I felt I did nothing wrong.
“I was shining the cricket ball. I’ve been doing that for my whole career, and every single team that I’ve played in does exactly the same thing.
“It’s not something that’s frowned upon by anyone, not even the umpires.”
And not even the Australians.
“Every team around the world shines the cricket ball,” their captain, Steve Smith, said on Wednesday.
“We’ve not come out and said anything about Faf or about how he was shining the ball.
“We along with every other team around the world shine the ball the same way.”
The same way? Sorry, but what the hell just happened?