Proteas captain Faf du Plessis has indicated on the eve of their last game at the World Cup that, although he does not feel now is the time to be making decisions about his future, he wants to continue playing through until at least the ICC World T20 in Australia in October/November 2020.
Du Plessis turns 35 in a week’s time and, as a player in all three formats with a young family, retirement is a question that is bound to come up.
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His captaincy has also been put under the spotlight due to the World Cup failure and some inexplicable decisions that have been made.
But when asked about whether he would want coach Ottis Gibson to continue in his position, Du Plessis made it clear that he saw them as a partnership.
“I definitely want Ottis to stay on, we have a very good relationship. I hope his contract is renewed so we can go together through to the T20 World Cup, that was both of our plan with this World Cup and that one being close together,” Du Plessis said.
The man who has won 27 of his 38 ODIs in charge – giving him the second-best winning percentage (71.05%) for South African captains who have led in 30 or more games, behind Hansie Cronje (73.33%) – did admit though that he needed a time of reflection over his future after the World Cup.
“I wanted to commit fully to the World Cup and not think about anything else, I wanted to be completely present in the World Cup and not let my mind drift into the future. Now is not the right time for career decisions but after this tournament I will take some time off and reflect on things like ‘What’s my purpose?’ and ‘Do I still want to play in all three formats?’
“Performance-wise I don’t think there’s any question that I can keep playing, I feel on top of my own game and the last year has been my best in terms of run-scoring,” Du Plessis said.
The general consensus over which format Du Plessis would drop seems to be that it is ODIs that he will walk away from, leaving South Africa with a very different side as they rebuild for the next World Cup, in India in February/March 2023.
Imran Tahir and JP Duminy have already announced their retirements from 50-over cricket, Hashim Amla is unlikely to continue much longer and there are question marks over David Miller, although he has stated he wants to play in the next tournament.
There is also the looming spectre of more Kolpak defections, which should become less of an issue after Brexit, which is now set for October 31, as well as the expiration of the Cotonou Agreement between the European Union and African countries in February 2020.
“There’s nothing the ICC can do about Kolpak but Cricket South Africa have been trying. There are almost two groups of players who are leaving – the Test players for whom Kolpak is the carrot; and the white-ball specialists who go on to the T20 circuit. Those are both areas of big concern and in a perfect world we could pay guys enough to keep them in South Africa.
“England, Australia and India are always going to be the more high-paying countries and that makes it easier for their players to remain. It would be amazing if things could change for the rest of the world, but that’s a long way away simply due to those currencies being stronger. The West Indies are probably worst off, but us, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, we’re all in the same category. We are in the second tier of nations and the issue is a lot bigger than me,” Du Plessis said.