South Africa in Australia 2016-17 November 23, 2016

'I felt I did nothing wrong' - du Plessis


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'I wasn't trying to cheat, I was shining the ball'

Speaking for the first time since being found guilty of ball-tampering on Tuesday evening, South Africa's stand-in captain Faf du Plessis used the first half of his pre-match press conference to continue to claim innocence. Du Plessis began with an explanation of what he considered the difference between altering the condition of the ball and merely looking after it, and that he firmly believed he was only doing the latter.

"Yesterday was the hearing and the verdict was that I was guilty. I completely disagree with that. I felt like I have done nothing wrong," du Plessis said. "There's two ways of looking at it, either ball-shining or ball-tampering. For me, if you talk about ball-tampering, that is something that's wrong. It's picking the ball, scratching the ball.

"Shining is something that all cricketers would say is not in that same space. It is something all cricketers do and I think there will be a lot of emphasis after this incident on where the game is going, what the ICC is going to do about it. I don't believe shining is wrong. It's not like I was trying to cheat or anything. I was shining a ball and I see no problem with that."

Du Plessis admitted he had a "massive mint" in his mouth and was not trying to be insidious about what he was doing in using saliva that had mixed with the sweet to shine the ball, but he questioned why he would have escaped charge had his actions not been seen by television cameras. "I wasn't trying to actually hide it," he said. "I put a massive mint in my mouth and my mouth was that wide open. 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, it's exactly the same thing."

And according to du Plessis, he has received enough support from both current and former players, including Australian captain Steven Smith, who in his own press conference said his team "along with every other, shine the ball the same way", to know that it is commonplace in the game.

"The ex-players have spoken about it. It's part of our game. It's been an unwritten rule," du Plessis said. "Some people use sunblock to shine the ball. I know of people who carry lip-ice in their pocket and shine the cricket ball or gum. So many things. It's just so difficult to say what is right and what is wrong. To say that when you have a sweet in your mouth, it's wrong but when you have a sweet in your mouth and the camera doesn't pick up on it, it's okay. It's just a really massive grey area."

The everybody-does-it defense made headlines in the lead-up to du Plessis' hearing, when footage emerged of Virat Kohli shining a ball when he appeared to have gum in his mouth, and David Warner shining a ball after applying lip-balm to his mouth. Neither Kohli nor Warner were charged - the visuals of their actions emerged after the ICC's five-day window for reporting incidents - and although du Plessis would not be drawn on whether they should have been, he asked for consistent application of the rules. "I just ask that everyone gets treated the same way," he said. "The ICC has taken a stance against me to use me as a scapegoat. All you can ask for is that everyone gets treated the same."

He also, along with Cricket South Africa CEO Haroon Lorgat, who was present at the press conference, hoped there would be clarity on what constitutes an artificial substance, and believes his case could lead to thorough research into whether sugar can make the ball swing.

"Ninety percent of the time, cricketers have got sugary saliva," du Plessis said. "Whether we are drinking Powerade, Coke, Gatorade, eating sweets, sucking on jellies, our mouths are always full of sugar. It's such a grey area in the laws of cricket and its something that will be looked at. Us as cricketers, we think that it makes a difference but we are not scientists. We are not sure if it makes a difference. It's opened up a can of worms, what's going to happen now, going forward with the game. Something like this needed to happen to create a little bit more awareness on it."

Lorgat confirmed that CSA will engage the ICC on the matter at the next cricket committee meeting but until then, du Plessis has asked not be branded underhanded and for the practice to be considered acceptable. "It's never nice to be in a position like this because with ball tampering, it's a really negative connotation that gets put to it and the term cheat has been thrown around and that's something I do not take lightly," he said.

"It's something I don't want to be associated with in any space and as I said, 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 I have played in does exactly the same thing and it's not something that's frowned upon my anyone, not even the umpires. So to make such a big thing, I just think it was a little bit blown out of proportion by everyone."

He has also thanked his team-mates for their united showing of support when Hashim Amla addressed the media at the MCG last Friday, with the entire squad alongside him. "If you know the character of someone like Hashim Amla, you will understand that for him to go out and stand in front of the press and say the things that he said, he will feel very strongly about it. He is just the most honest guy on the planet so for him to say that means a lot," du Plessis said. "It's speaks a lot about our culture and how we don't let any outside noise creep into our space."

The noise may not have got in, but du Plessis has been warned to expect a hostile reception at the Adelaide Oval, perhaps from the opposition but definitely from the crowd. While he does not think Smith and co will have anything because he believes they do the same thing.

"I think the Aussies won't talk about it at all because they know that's part of their team as well. It's not been driven by the cricketers. You don't expect to go out there against Australia and walk out with a clap and welcome to the crease. It's part of playing against Australia, you expect that and that's something I have grown used to," he said, but challenged fans to understand his perspective. "I'm hoping that cricketing sense will be prevail. It's obviously something that if you are a cricketer and you understand cricket that this is not actually that big of a deal."

With the ball in the spotlight, du Plessis' tactics on shining the pink ball will come into focus but he has indicated it may not need as much work. "The timing is perfect that it's the pink ball. Apparently it swings more. It will be interesting to see how to shine the ball. I will probably just touch my finger like that and get a little bit of spit on it," he joked.

And will he still use mints as the sugary substance of choice? "Possibly just for bad breath now, not for shining the ball. I still the feel exactly the same way. Whether I was guilty or not, whether the sentence was different or not, I still feel exactly the same way. Maybe that needs to change now but possibly for this one game, I just maybe need to stay away from the mints."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Peter on November 26, 2016, 21:41 GMT

    Now he "feels" he has done nothing wrong as opposed to saying he did nothing wrong. He is showing contempt to all of us, not only the ICC, I thought he would be above that.

  • kulaya3918804 on November 25, 2016, 1:56 GMT

    It's not a question of what he feels like he did something "wrong" - whether wrong morally, legally, or both - it is question of what the direct visual evidence proves in relation to the game's law. He repeatedly intentionally applies the liquified subtance of the jumbo confectioner's sweetmeat to the cricket ball. Morally, this is wrong because he is trying to gain an unfair advantage over the opposition (assuming the opposition are not also doing it). Legally, he is wrong because it is intentionally applying an artificial substance - a large sweet confection - in syrupy form directly onto the cricket ball, having used his mouth to reduce it to that liquid state. The only way he can claim to have done neither of these "wrongs", is if he is regarding neither morals nor laws.

  • cluelessjan1 on November 24, 2016, 3:56 GMT

    This is not end of story. now if anyone spots one eating gum or wearing gel, cream etc and shining the ball with salaiva or tampered fingers ICC ows a duty to stop it. its the start of more regulated playing conditions.

  • adeel on November 24, 2016, 3:49 GMT

    wouldn't the umpires have seen him and other fielders mouths move either with chewing gum or sucking on the mint? so why didn't they stop him and say hey you are using additional source to shine the ball ?...very strange !

  • disco on November 24, 2016, 3:03 GMT

    "I felt I did nothing wrong", the guilt is contained within the very denial. Had he truly believed that he did nothing wrong he'd simply have said, 'I did nothing wrong'

  • Chris on November 24, 2016, 1:25 GMT

    I get that it's tough if it's become pretty standard that everyone is trying to push the limits on these rules, but the arguments used don't hold a lot of water. That hacking the ball up counts as ball tampering but shining can't is silly. If a player came out with a pack of red shoe polish and set about polishing the ball up with it I think you'd definitely call that ball tampering despite it just being about shining. So to rule all "shining" out of ball tampering doesn't work. Certainly when players are always trying to push the rules to the limit to get every bit of advantage possible there is always going to be an issue as to what point to draw the line. But the line still has to be drawn somewhere.

    And as for the argument that's basically why is it okay if you don't get caught but not okay if you do get caught. Seriously Faf?

  • Andrew on November 24, 2016, 1:20 GMT

    Faf did nothing wrong. As he said, there is shining the ball, and there is roughing the ball. Roughing the ball definitely makes a difference and is considered tampering. Shining the ball is legal and everyone does it. There is no evidence that shining the ball with sugary saliva makes any difference compared to shining the ball with normal saliva, and every cricketer frequently drinks and eats sugary substances. So, to all the witch hunters, sit back and enjoy watching Oz take another beating in Adelaide and remember, it had nothing to do with mints.

  • swanie9117549 on November 24, 2016, 1:00 GMT

    XL2020 No amount of spit on the ball would have changed the disciplined line and length they bowled, feel free to keep on enjoying the display.

  •   Llewellyn Andrew on November 23, 2016, 23:46 GMT

    He shined the one side of the ball and I have seen cricketers use so many ways to keep one side lovely and red and the other side dry to increase swing. What Faf said is correct.Perhaps it is time to ban shining completely to avoid such ridiculous endings.

  • oswell on November 23, 2016, 22:34 GMT

    The footage clearly shows du Plessis is guilty and he sure knows he is. The angle he puts his finger in his mouth proves he was reaching for the sweet. I'm a bowler and bowlers normally sticks out their tongue not push their finger so deep in their mouth. It also looks like Amla and to a lesser extent Egar knew the evil he was up to. Amla seemed to tell him something pertaining to his action then walk away laughing. He should've been suspended. NB: I supports any team that plays the Aussies but I also a lover of good clean cricket

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