It is understandable if those in-charge of promoting the India-South Africa series were in a fix. Generally in the build-up to a highly-anticipated clash between two heavyweights, the teams become an extension of their respective captains’ personalities and the publicity campaign is based on pitting the two leaders in a face-to-face confrontation. But here, if India have two captains, South Africa have three.
At least with the hosts, the distinction is obvious with MS Dhoni retired from Tests. The Proteas on the other hand are led in the three formats by their batting stars.
It’s also during the maiden press conference of a long tour that the visiting captain chalks down his team’s mission and how they plan to achieve it. In this case, over the next couple of months, we will see three separate South Africans singing pretty much the same tune but in different voices. Faf du Plessis was the first to go, on Monday, and he sang praises of the Proteas’ split captaincy theory, insisting that there was no clash of ideas.
The T20 skipper also revealed that it allowed ODI and Test skippers, AB de Viliers and Hashim Amla respectively, some breathing space before they take over the reins as the tour progresses.
“I think it is working beautifully. Probably, the question mark was there from the management point of view. It is working great at the moment.
“Someone like AB with a lot on his plate can sit back and enjoy during T20Is. That enables him to always remain in fresh mind. Hashim, as the Test captain, has extra responsibility and in T20Is, he gives that over to me,” said du Plessis while addressing the media in Delhi.
“There has not been one instance that one has had different perspective. We have worked together and continue to learn from each other. The challenge for a long tour is spending too much time — 72 days. Relying on guys what they need to do to be ready for first game,” he added.
While South Africa begin their tour with a warm-up match at the Palam Ground on Tuesday, they will traverse the length and breadth of India over the next 72 days, playing three international T20s, five ODIs and an unprecedented four Tests. If the split captaincy will keep their captains fresh, coach Russell Domingo believes that the camaraderie in the dressing-room that he’s in-charge of and the tough upbringing of the South Africans will hold them in good stead. The bashful Domingo, known for his number-crunching prowess, will be the only constant at the helm as du Plessis, de Villiers and Amla share the leadership responsibilities.
“I think the players enjoy each other’s company for starters. I think there is a big camaraderie in the group. I suppose being from Africa, we are used to being in tough places. Africa is not for sissies, Africa is a tough place,” he said.
Domingo also insisted that it was his team’s openness to embrace new cultures-reminiscent of what Steve Waugh had said during his ‘Final Frontier’ campaign in 2001-was an integral reason for South Africa’s extended dominance away from home.
“So for us to travel to different places is a challenge for us. We really enjoy that. Seeing different cultures, meeting different people. We have got a good nucleus of senior players who are really good people, that mixes easily with different cultures and different people and I think that’s the strength of our side,” he said.
Unlike India, who are just coming off a hectic yet successful three-Test match tour to Sri Lanka, the Proteas haven’t played much in whites in 2015. Their Test tour to Bangladesh was marred by rain, and Domingo believes that his team cannot complain about the lengthy duration of their Indian sojourn.
“We have had a pretty easy schedule in terms of work load after the World Cup. The disadvantage is that we come here having not played Test match cricket.
The advantage of that would be that players would be hungry to do well in that format. They still see Tests as the pinnacle of cricket,” he said before talking about how much pride they took in defending their very impressive overseas Test record.
“So when we do get time to play Tests we take it really seriously and we know that we are the number one Test side in the world and we would like to hang on to that spot for a long period of time,” added Domingo.
On Friday, du Plessis will square off against a very familiar face in Dhoni when the two teams start the tour with a T20 at Dharamsala. He in fact went on to say that the five years he’s played under his counterpart in Chennai Super Kings (CSK) colours have transformed him into a better cricketer.
“I always ask him (Dhoni), how is he so cool. I can say two things about Dhoni. I have been fortunate to have played under him and I have huge amount of respect for him. Secondly I know what he brings to the table. He is a calm captain and knows how to handle pressure situations. You can learn to be your own man,” he said.
The next one week would also be about du Plessis getting into his own as a captain and validating the split captaincy theory.