Bastab K Parida
24 Oct 2022 | 03:36 AM

Faf du Plessis blames Boucher and Smith’s silence for his Test retirement

The 38-year-old felt Boucher and Smith ghosted him when he needed their support the most

Faf du Plessis retired from Test cricket in February 2020, citing he wanted to "walk into a new chapter" and focus primarily on the shortest format of the game, in which he was still the skipper. However, that turned out to be a chapter marred with a lot of innuendo. 

Turned out there was  past to deal with. Following South Africa’s dispirited performances against England in 2019, when Temba Bavuma - that team's only black African batter - was dropped, a lot of media furore happened. To answer that, du Plessis commented that the team didn’t see color. That comment put him on the firing line of media due to his lack of understanding of South Africa’s apartheid past. 

While Faf later clarified his lack of knowledge and put his full weight behind the “Black Lives Matter” movement, he felt wronged by the CSA administration and coach Mark Boucher for not getting any support. 

"I needed someone to back me up in the media, and Graeme and Mark were best positioned to clear the air and show public support for their national captain who was dealing with head- and tailwinds simultaneously. When Mark attended a press conference while this storm was raging, he didn't do that," du Plessis writes in his book, “Faf: Through Fire”, reported ESPNCricinfo.

Du Plessis felt that he lost connection with Boucher on a personal level but observed that the former wicket-keeper was close with Quinton de Kock and Dean Elgar. Further, during the Pakistan Test series, when Rassie Van der Dussen was dismissed on the third day of the first Test in Karachi, with 30 minutes of the game still to go for the day, Boucher asked Faf to get ready instead of night watchman Keshav Maharaj. The team had an unsaid rule of 30 minutes in which if a batter gets out, the nightwatchman would handle things for the remaining period. But Boucher didn’t agree with that and du Plessis was dismissed with five minutes to stumps.

"I was furious when I left the field. We had just lost a main batter because of an avoidable tactical error. I said to myself that I was too emotional to address this with Mark immediately and that I should go to bed, sleep on it, and discuss it with him the following morning," he writes.

"At our post-match review session, I said I did not agree with the way we had handled the situation. For the past ten years, the batter had had the option of a nightwatchman, and I wanted us to discuss this. I said that I wanted to share my opinion but I was happy to be challenged on my stance. I felt that the nightwatchman was a trump card to be used tactically when required but, if the team felt differently, I'd go with what they wanted," du Plessis writes. 

"The vast majority of our batting unit said they preferred having the option of a nightwatchman. Mark tried to push back, saying that in his day the norm was fifteen minutes prior to the end of play, but that's not how I remember it. I had also played with Graeme, [Jacques] Kallis and AB, and they used to love the option of not having to bat in the dark."

"Mark brought this conversation up again a few months later while we were still discussing my involvement in the [2021] T20 World Cup, and he said that he didn't like the way I had challenged him on the nightwatchman. Personally, I always appreciated it when someone challenged 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 writes.

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