TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
IF you thought Faf du Plessis’ appointment as South Africa’s test captain would make him reconsider his appeal against the ball-tampering conviction he earned in Australia last month, think again.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) will hear Du Plessis’ case on Monday.
A week later he is due to lead South Africa in the first test against Sri Lanka at St George’s Park.
But if Du Plessis is smacked with four demerit points – which is an option for judicial commissioner Michael Beloff – he will be banned for the first test.
Should that make Du Plessis reconsider his appeal?
“It sounds like the logical thing to do,” he said at Newlands on Wednesday. “But I didn’t agree with the whole way it happened and unfolded, even the hearing that took place and how everything works when it comes to those hearings.
“Even if it meant that it was a decision that came out in a way I didn’t want it to, for me its the principle of standing up to something that you don’t agree with.
“And that’s what a captain is all about. It’s making sure you stand your ground and fight for whatever the cause is.”
The cause in this case is that Du Plessis is adamant that using fingers taken from his mouth in which a mint is, on television footage, clearly visible to help the ball preserve its shine makes him guilty of tampering.
Law 42.3, which prohibits players from using artificial aids like sugar in their efforts to manage the condition of the ball, disagrees.
The complication is that, as Australian captain Steve Smith admitted at the time: “We along with every other team around the world shine the ball the same way.”
Which means that, not for the first nor surely for the last time, cricket’s suits are out of touch with what’s happening in the real world on the business side of the boundary.
The ICC have conceded that truth obliquely by saying they will only prosecute in cases of flagrant transgressions.
Du Plessis, who can be seen on the footage with his fingers deep in his mouth fetching as much sugar-soaked spit as he can find, was about as flagrant a transgressor as could be.
The Marylebone Cricket Club’s world cricket committee had a chance to recommend a change in the ball-tampering regulations at a meeting in Mumbai last week.
They didn’t take it, which means umpires and match referees will have keep fooling themselves that players are not applying sticky saliva to the ball and that those players will have to keep hiding their illicit sweets from view.
Principles aside, the other edge of the sword is that Du Plessis might emerge from his appeal with a lighter sentence.
As things stand he has three demerit points lurking over his shoulder, which means another level two problem in the next 24 months could trigger a ban.
But should Beloff decide Du Plessis is less guilty than originally found, he could erase one or more of those points and give South Africa’s captain some legal wriggle room.
And should Beloff do his worst and ban Du Plessis, South Africa would rather be without him in Port Elizabeth against opponents who are not equipped to make the most of his absence than when it could matter significantly more – like on South Africa’s tour to England next year.
If that sounds like a win-win situation, perhaps that’s because it is.