ADELAIDE: South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said on Thursday he is taking no pleasure from the continuing turmoil in Australian cricket but is happy to take advantage of the situation while he can as the teams prepare for the second One-day International.
South Africa won the first game by six wickets in Perth last weekend, Australia’s seventh consecutive loss in the 50-over format. The teams play the second of three matches on Friday in Adelaide, with the third ODI set for the Gold Coast in Queensland state on Sunday.
The ball-tampering scandal during a Test match at Cape Town in March prompted an overhaul which saw national coach Darren Lehmann and chief executive James Sutherland leave Cricket Australia.
Test captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were banned from international or first-class cricket for 12 months and opening batsman Cameron Bancroft was suspended for nine months after his clumsy attempt to change the condition of the ball with sandpaper was captured by TV cameras.
“It’s never nice when it carries on for so long,” du Plessis said in the wake of more executive changes announced this week by Cricket Australia and the resignation of former captain Mark Taylor as a board director. “I think everyone in their camp would just like to start afresh now and make sure they can focus on the cricket.”
But du Plessis said he’s happy to take advantage of a depleted Australian lineup with some of their best players on the sidelines.
“I believe you have to,” he said. “If you do get an opportunity against Australia where you can put your foot on the gas, it’s really important to try and do that because it’s not often you get those opportunities.
“Obviously from a results point of view, there is a bit of pressure on their batting lineup to score runs.”
Australian ODI captain Aaron Finch also admitted that the upheaval has been on his mind, with the World Cup champions following a series loss against Pakistan with a lopsided opening loss to South Africa.
“When there are changes, and there’s things being said and written about, I think it’s hard not to read it sometimes when it’s everywhere,” Finch said.
Finch said on Thursday as he urged his players to keep their focus on the field. “When there are changes [on the board front], and there are things being said and written, I think it’s hard not to read it sometimes when it’s everywhere,” Finch said. “You might spend a little bit of time reading it, and putting some kind of doubts in your mind.”
Australia go into Friday’s clash against the Proteas with 17 defeats in their last 19 one-dayers, including a six wicket thrashing in the tour opener in Perth.
Finch said confidence was low and it was important that the players focused on the basics.
“It’s about getting back to the basics of partnerships and making sure you connect with your partner when you first get out there,” he said. “When we talk about confidence in the batting group it’s about not letting outside distractions affect your game.
“If you can... really make sure that you’re committed to watching the ball and being 100 percent committed to your partnership, I think that’ll go a long way towards turning things around quickly.”
Finch knows he needs to lead from the front and has turned to master technician Greg Chappell, an exceptional all-rounder, for guidance.
“I managed to catch up with him for a chat about technique and some minor changes [I want to make],” Finch said.
“Someone who is as successful as he was as a cricketer and then as a coach as well, to be able to tap into his knowledge and his thoughts on technique and the basics of batting is huge.”
Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2018