Faf du Plessis says break in relationship with coach Mark Boucher prompted him to retire from Test

Faf du Plessis says break in relationship with coach Mark Boucher prompted him to retire from Test

In the book, du Plessis looks back on a difficult childhood, a career that began in the shadow of his best friend. AB de VilliersSouth Africa’s heartaches at the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, his elevation to national captaincy and his eventual exit from the job, driven by what he calls a lack of general Cricket South skills Africa (CSA), especially in the later stages of his career.

In a chapter titled “The Ghosts of Insecurity”, du Plessis begins to document his final stages with the national team, which began when Boucher took over for a series against England in December 2019. Du Plessis writes that the series “felt different” from previous ones as he did not feel supported by Boucher when he faced a media barrage.

Ahead of the second Test, du Plessis, who was out of form at the time, was asked why Temba Bavuma – the only black African hitter on that team – had been dropped and, in his response on the meager run of Bavuma, he pointed out that the national team did not see the color. The commentary caught fire and du Plessis was harshly criticized for failing to understand the nuances of South Africa’s segregated past, even as he struggled to score points. He wrote that he didn’t think Smith or Boucher provided him with the support he needed then, which set the tone for the rest of their relationship.

“I needed someone to support me in the media, and Graeme and Mark were in the best position to clear the air and show the public their support for their national captain who was facing headwinds and tailwinds simultaneously. When Mark attended a press conference while this storm was raging, he didn’t do that,” du Plessis wrote.

Later in the series, Boucher asked du Plessis about his future with the national team and du Plessis committed to all three formats. However, he opted for a break from ODIs and, with the 2023 World Cup more than three years away, to step down as ODI captain. Boucher also asked du Plessis if he would give up the captaincy of the T20, but du Plessis writes that he was “not convinced that giving up the captaincy of the T20 was the right decision”. Du Plessis went on to assume that Boucher’s idea that he would step down as captain of the T20 was just a “suggestion”. Du Plessis spent the rest of the series “concerned that Mark and I weren’t connecting on a deeper level as captain and coach”, and felt that their relationship was “somewhat cold and distant” and that he was “noticing more and more how close he was”. with Dean (Elgar) and Quinny (de Kock)”.

Later, du Plessis discovered that Smith and Boucher “were very keen on having Quinny (as captain) in both white-ball formats”, which happened afterwards. He finished the England series feeling he was “losing that connection to my purpose as leader of the team”.

After the series, du Plessis made the decision that since “Mark and I didn’t click”, it would be “better for the team to have a new captain than someone who couldn’t connect with the team. coach”. He resigned from test captaincy on February 17, 2020, but opted to stay on as a player and considered himself “untitled leading”.

That’s the header for his next chapter, where du Plessis examines the year between his resignation as captain and his retirement from Test cricket, which was sandwiched between the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic. . Du Plessis writes that at that time when South Africa were playing the Test series against Sri Lanka at home and far in pakistan, his relationship with Boucher had become “purely transactional” and that he benefited from Boucher’s technical expertise. He went to a career best 199 against Sri Lanka but struggle in Pakistan, where he discovered that “my desire and joy to play the Tests for South Africa was not what it used to be”.

Du Plessis sheds light on an incident which he claims occurred during the first test and highlighted his decision to retire. It was day three as South Africa built up a slender lead in the second set after conceding a 158-run deficit in the first set. The day’s play was coming to an end and Keshav Maharaj was padded as night guard. The South African side had an unspoken rule, writes du Plessis, that they would send a night watch if a wicket fell within 30 minutes or seven overs of play remaining in the day. But Boucher, he wrote, told Maharaj he wouldn’t be needed because a night watch doesn’t come on until 15 minutes before closing. Du Plessis, who says he spoke to Boucher about the previous 30 minutes, must have braced himself to hit and go when Rassie van der Dussen was fired 25 minutes before the end of the day. Du Plessis lasted 20 minutes and was sent off with five minutes to play.

“Dealing with CSA during this time was like being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t appreciate you as much as you appreciate them. to communicate effectively.”

Faf du Plessis in his book

“I was furious when I left the field. We had just lost a lead hitter to an avoidable tactical error. I figured I was too emotional to address this with Mark immediately and that I should go go to bed, sleep on it, and discuss it with him the next morning,” he wrote.

South Africa lost the match the following day, having set Pakistan a goal of 88. “In our post-match debriefing session, I said I disagreed with the how we had handled the situation. the batter had been given the opportunity to have a night watchman, and I wanted to discuss it. I said that I wanted to share my opinion but I was happy to be challenged on my position. I felt the night watchman was an asset to use tactically when needed, but if the team felt otherwise, I would go with what they wanted,” du Plessis wrote. “The vast majority of our batting unit said they preferred to have the option of a night watchman. Mark tried to push back, saying that in his day the norm was fifteen minutes before the end of the game , but that’s not how I remember it. I had also played with Graeme, [Jacques] Kallis and AB, and they liked the option of not having to beat in the dark.”

This continued to leave a bitter taste in the mouths of du Plessis and Boucher. “Mark picked up this conversation a few months later when we were still talking about my involvement in the [2021] T20 World Cup, and he said he didn’t like the way I challenged him on the night watchman. Personally, I’ve always appreciated someone challenging me on something I did or believed in, especially if it came from someone who wasn’t necessarily a friend. But that’s just me,” du Plessis wrote.

Du Plessis informed Smith of his decision to withdraw from Test cricket upon his return from that series and sent Boucher a message asking if they could meet to discuss an important matter. “He never replied to my message, nor contacted me after the announcement… His silence confirmed to me that I had made the right decision to withdraw from the Tests.”

At the time, du Plessis was also negotiating a continued role in the T20 squad, with the 2021 and 2022 T20 World Cups in mind. Du Plessis wanted to continue playing T20s for the national team, under a contract , and be allowed to compete in T20 leagues outside of their domestic commitments. Essentially, du Plessis was asking the ASC to go where it hadn’t gone before: issue a T20I-only contract. Smith assured du Plessis that he would investigate the possibility. The CSA board has finally decided that it will not award T20I-only contracts, but is still exploring the possibility of using du Plessis in the 2021 T20 World Cup, if he plays in 65% of matches. nationals.

Du Plessis, wary of clashes between leagues and international fixtures, and with an IPL contract that “wasn’t enough to cover all my financial commitments” wanted a “formal offer that would allow me to play in fewer leagues”. He claims Smith never got back to him about it, which led to him accepting more league opportunities. But, says du Plessis, he didn’t leave it there and on May 11, 2021, “sent an email to Graeme, Mark and Victor Mpitsang asking for better two-way communication. I said a breakdown in communication led to AB not playing in the 2019 World Cup, which became a media mess. I wanted us to prevent that from happening again. So what did they expect from a player who was not under contract but who was in the running for the World Cup? Du Plessis said he had not received a response from any of them and that Mpitsang “has not had a single conversation with me since he was appointed to replace Linda Zondi in October 2020”.

He writes that “dealing with CSA during this time was like being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t appreciate you as much as you appreciate them. It made things more complicated, and I had to work a lot harder than necessary to get them. communicating effectively. Their actions made it easier for me to accept that going to the World Cup wasn’t meant to be.” Du Plessis did not go to the 2021 or 2022 T20 World Cups but remains fit in league cricket around the world.

CSA has yet to see a copy of du Plessis’ book and told ESPNcricinfo that he would reserve comment until he had read it.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s correspondent in South Africa

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