South Africa's captain Faf du Plessis
South Africa's captain Faf du Plessis waits for the arrival of the incoming batsman after the dismissal of Aiden Markram during the World Cup group stage match against Pakistan at Lord's Cricket Ground in London on June 23, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

London: South African skipper Faf Du Plessis admitted that the performances of his team at the Cricket World Cup have been embarrassing. His remarks following the 49-run defeat to Pakistan which sent the Proteas crashing out of the tournament were a candid confession of the state of the South African team.

Du Plessis admitted this was the lowest point of his career as the national team captain: “Yes, definitely,” he said. “I’m a very proud player and captain, and playing for South Africa means a lot for me, and the fact that the results we’re dishing out at the moment — it’s beginning to get a little bit embarrassing. We’re trying for sure, but it’s just not good enough.”

Having played so many games for South Africa, is this his team’s worst performance? “Probably harsh to say the worst performance ever, but frustrating,” he added. “We keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Probably started off with the bowling. Its been a well below par performance today, barring Immy [Imran Tahir], who was exceptional once again.”

Du Plessis lamented that his top two pacers Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada have not been at their best. “Last year, the two of them were brilliant for us, and they have been striking. Kagi [Rabada] has been bowling quick right through the season,” he said. “I do feel Lungi’s fitness is perhaps the thing that is his biggest challenge. He hasn’t played a lot of cricket. His pace is probably a little bit down from where he used to be, so that’s taking the effectiveness of him away. He hasn’t played a lot of games in this World Cup, and I think his fitness is probably one big challenge that he would need to step up.”

As the captain of a team that hasn’t been performing to expectations, did he try to boost the confidence of his players? Finding it hard to give a response, he said: “The real honest answer is that regular defeats chips away one’s confidence. We are trying very, very hard. Then when we come and play another game and the same thing happens again, then you go back and try and train hard again, and once again the same mistake happens, it simply chips away your confidence, your ego. It chips away at you as a player. As much as I can say or the coach can say, the ultimate responsibility lies with every player to try and make sure that he comes to the park and gives everything. If confidence is an issue, one needs to sort it out himself Everyone has played the game of cricket long enough to understand that you do go through highs and lows.”

He also accepted the fact that confidence is very low in his team now. “The frustrating thing for us at the moment is we have got more people going through lows than highs right now,” he said. “From a batting point of view, there’s a lot of guys low on runs. You need at least three out of your five guys firing in a tournament like this to be successful, and at the moment, that’s not happening.”

Du Plessis even hinted that some players, especially Rabada, should have rested instead of playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL). “We did try and get him not to go to the IPL, to try and stay and get fresh,” he said. “Then when he went there, we tried to get him back halfway through the IPL because it’s important, not just for him, but a few other players as well.”

Talking of players staying fresh before a major tournament, Du Plessis believes that some of his players should have rested before the World Cup. “I don’t think it’s necessarily just the IPL, but it was important for a few guys to get good rest,” he said. “That’s not an excuse, that’s just a fact. And Kagi is — you can see that his pace is probably a little bit down from where he normally is.”

But he was quick to point out that resting the players was not in his hands. “The one area where if I could have it definitely was having more players to rest before the tournament, but that’s something that’s not in my hands. I can’t do anything about that.”