Francois du Plessis
July 13, 1984, Pretoria
Right hand bat
Middle order batter
Affies Boys School, Pretoria
Classy, composed and a fine crafter of innings', Faf du Plessis emerged as one of South Africa's most consistent batsmen in the post-Jacques Kallis era. Du Plessis is strong on the front foot, has impeccable defences and enjoys spending time at the crease. A natural leader, du Plessis was put in charge of the T20 side in February 2013 and formed part of the senior core in other formats.
All that may have been lost when, in 2007, du Plessis signed a Kolpak deal with Lancashire. Unlike his high-school contemporary, AB de Villiers, du Plessis did not manage to fast-track himself into the international spotlight and looked abroad for other opportunities. Apart from learning the rigours of the county system, du Plessis made a name for his fielding.
He returned to South Africa to play domestic cricket every summer and topped the MTN40 run charts in the 2010-11 season. His Kolpak deal had expired by then and he was selected in South Africa's one-day squad for the home series against India in January 2011. A half-century on debut sealed his spot for the World Cup that followed. At that point, du Plessis was known as an aggressive ball-striker and quick run-scorer.
He was part of the South Africa Test squad that took the Test mace off England in mid-2012, but did not play a game, instead getting a T20 debut on that tour. He got his Test chance on South Africa's tour to Australia later that year and followed his first-innings 78 in the second Test in Adelaide with a stonewalling effort for the ages in the second innings. Du Plessis spent more than seven-and-a-half hours at the crease, faced 376 balls and remained unbeaten on 110 to take South Africa to an unlikely draw, which set them up for a series win in Perth.
His curve continued upwards when in December that year, du Plessis was given the T20 captaincy in a series against New Zealand, despite only having played four T20Is prior to that. He was then given the role permanently the following February. Du Plessis had established himself as a complete batsmen, who had the ability to shift gears and anchor an innings, and played a similar knock against India in December 2013. His 134 in the second innings of the Johannesburg Test took South Africa within eight runs of completing the highest successful Test chase, 458, and in the end secured a draw. When Kallis retired after the next match, du Plessis was an automatic choice for promotion to No.3.
It took du Plessis a little longer to repeat those feats in limited-overs. In his 51st ODI, he finally scored his first century in the format, against Australia in a triangular series in Harare in August 2014, but then the floodgates opened. Two more hundreds came in that series, which South Africa won.
Du Plessis took good form into the 2015 World Cup, after becoming the second South African to score a T20I century after Richard Levi, in February that year. He was among those left devastated by South Africa's semi-final loss.
While du Plessis continued to rack up runs in ODIs, he was criticised for occasionally scoring too slowly. He started to struggle in the longest format and after managing just one fifty in 12 innings in the 2015-16 season, he was dropped for the final Test against England in January 2016.
Du Plessis led South Africa in two World T20 campaigns, in 2014 and 2016, and despite them returning empty-handed from both, he confirmed his desire to keep the captaincy.
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