Du Plessis insists he's not a cheat
South Africa batsman Faf du Plessis has described himself as a "morally good person" who does not want to be associated with cheating in his first public comment since the ball-tampering episode that took place during the second Test against Pakistan in Dubai last month.
South Africa had five penalty runs awarded against them and the ball was changed after the 30th over of Pakistan's second innings, when the on-field umpires identified du Plessis as the person who changed the condition of the ball. Du Plessis was later booked under law 42 and fined 50% of his match fee after he did not contest the charge.
In the immediate aftermath, AB de Villiers had insisted that South Africa "are not cheats." After du Plessis pleaded guilty and was sanctioned, team manager Mohammad Moosajee read out a statement explaining that they had decided not to contest du Plessis' charge because they feared doing so would result in a greater penalty. They said calling du Plessis' actions ball tampering was "harsh," though the ICC had termed it as such.
In his column for South African sports website, SuperSport.com, du Plessis insisted he did not intentionally tamper with the ball and was merely drying it. "We all know in cricket that there is a ball to be worked on and kept shiny," he wrote. "In the UAE, the added element is that it's incredibly hot and part of the challenge is keeping the ball dry from the sweat of the bowlers. So, in a team you have designated ball 'shiners' and ball 'workers', and I'm one of them. It's usually the guys who don't bowl or who don't sweat as much as the others.
"There are ways of 'working' the ball as much as possible within the rules, such as bouncing the ball on the wicket, trying to bowl cross-seam, and basically trying to scuff the ball as much as possible, naturally, so that it's easier for the bowlers to grip.
"So, I was trying to keep the ball as dry as possible. As the footage showed, I was on the rough side of the ball, and I'll be the first to admit that I was working it far too close to my zip. That's obviously what the third umpire saw on TV.
"But, when the on-field umpires inspected the ball, there wasn't a scratch mark or anything untoward on the ball. In fact, it was in excellent shape and wasn't reverse-swinging at all. Basically, the condition of the ball hadn't been changed, and that's why I think my penalty was not as harsh as the sentences given out for other similar incidents."
Harsher penalties for ball-tampering include up to 100% of the players' match fee and a ban of one Test, two ODIs or two T20s, but du Plessis escaped that. In response, the PCB, whose players have been banned from matches in the past, wrote a letter to the ICC seeking clarification for the inconsistencies in the application of the law. There has yet to be a public comment explaining the different sentences.
Du Plessis indicated he wants to put the incident behind him and said he has learnt to "always make sure you are morally on the right side of things."
"I pride myself on being a morally good person, and that's why this past week has been so difficult, as people have been quick to label me a cheat. That's not the kind of person I am and it's not the kind of person I want to be associated with."
He also said he has become extra wary during his ball-drying duties. "When someone throws me the ball, I'm afraid to even look at it, and rather just catch it and get rid of it."