Kolkata: Faf du Plessis, the former South African captain and always a sought-after figure in the world of franchise cricket, hopes that the worst is behind him after the serious concussion he suffered during the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Abu Dhabi in June. The veteran is taking fresh guard for what could be a busy remaining part of the year for him - starting with leading Saint Lucia Kings in Caribbean Premier League (CPL) in the West Indies and then the remaining part of IPL 2021 in the UAE.
‘Faf,’ as he is referred to, suffered a collision with one of his Quetta Gladiators teammates during a league game of the PSL and had to be rushed for the mandatory scans and was diagnosed with concussion - something which forced him to miss rest of the tournament and return to South Africa.
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‘‘It has been a tough three months for me and I consider myself fortunate to be back in action again,’’ the 37-year-old said during a virtual interaction with selected media on the eve of the CPL which kicks off at St Kitts and Nevis on Friday. Du Plessis and Andy Flower, head coach of the franchise which is now co-owned by IPL franchise Punjab Kings, unveiled the team shirt for the league which got under way on Thursday.
The road to recovery had not been an easy one for Du Plessis, who travelled to the UK earlier this month after being in quarantine in Croatia to play for Northern Superchargers in The Hundred - but was not cleared medically to get back into action. ‘‘I couldn’t play in The Hundred and then came here but where my rehab got over yesterday. In cricket, we don’t really know much about concussion as generally if you get hit in the helmet, the medical staff checks you once and you continue with the job,’’ he said.
In less than three weeks’ time, Faf will be flying to another continent to don the Chennai Super Kings shirt in the second phase of IPL which begins in the UAE with a match between champions Mumbai Indians and CSK on September 19.
Asked to comment on his team’s chances in IPL, Du Plessis felt they have a more balanced squad than last year in the UAE. ‘‘CSK are a better balanced squad than last time and had a good campaign in India in the first half the league. However, it’s now more about getting back to the game for me,’’ said Faf, who will be opening their innings with young international Ruturaj Gaekwad.
Elaborating how the IPL experience has enriched him as a cricketer, Faf said: ‘‘At one stage, there were four international captains - including myself - playing for CSK. Playing with MS (Dhoni), possibly the influential player in the history of IPL had also been a privilege.’’
The consummate professional that he is, Faf had been prolific with the bat and brought about some incredible catches while patrolling between the long off and long off region in first part of the league in India. Asked how difficult it is to take care of the body, he said with a wry smile: ‘‘It doesn’t get any easier but there is no dearth of motivation for me when I take the field.’’
Incidentally, two of the CPL teams - regining champions Trinbago Knight Riders and now Saint Lucia Kings are now co-owned by IPL franchises. Asked if it will have a rub-off in terms of following among the Indian fans, Flower said: ‘‘The CPL has generally enjoyed a good following among the Indian fans as they love to watch the Caribbeans in action.’’