One of the fittest, most dynamic performers in the SA Proteas cricket team is Francois ‘Faf’ du Plessis, who also captains the national Twenty20 team. Modern Athlete’s Nicole Ferreira and Lauren van der Vyver caught up with him for a chat about training, playing, captaincy and World Cup hopes.
Nicole: Having been appointed SA Twenty20 captain in 2013, has this changed things for you?
Faf: We will be going to Sri Lanka now, so I have a bit of a break from the captaincy, but I really enjoy the responsibility that goes with it. It can get taxing if you are captain of all three platforms, as Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers were, because mentally, it eventually takes its toll on a player. I think it is better and more efficient that the system has now changed, and that there are separate captains for each discipline. Hashim Amla has recently been appointed as the new Test captain and AB de Villiers leads us through the ODI’s.
Nicole: What format of the game is your favourite and what teams are the most challenging to take on?
Faf: I prefer Test cricket, but also the Twenty20, as I enjoy leading my team. Regarding opponents, no-one intimidates me on home soil, but the toughest teams are Sri Lanka and India – if you play them on their turf, they are very hard to beat. The pitches play a big role and they have grown up in those conditions, and it is a bit of an adjustment for us when we are over there. Australian pitches are very much like South African pitches, but in England the ball swings a bit more and in the Sub-continent the ball spins more.
Lauren: The Indian Premier League (IPL) fixtures are very demanding, so how do you manage it all?
Faf: It is one of the tougher arms of our schedule. The travelling also becomes intense. You are away from family and friends for two months at a time and spend a lot of it in the hotel. Luckily, my wife Imari travels with me. It is an exhilarating experience, but after a week or two you need your privacy!
Nicole: What does your training entail? Is there time for any cross-training in your busy schedule?
Faf: Luckily for us we play so much that the regular games cover our fitness. I do have a light gym routine as anything strenuous will limit my performance on ‘game day.’ During the off-season I do more cross-training, with short, intense sprints on the treadmill to increase my explosive power, and on the odd occasion I swim to keep pressure off my joints.
Lauren: How are you feeling about the World Cup next year?
Faf: We just finished the Twenty20 World Cup in Bangladesh where we made the semi-finals but lost to India. I am excited about the upcoming campaign, and we will be involving the fans with the team a lot more. We are playing some superb cricket at the moment, but we need to get the ‘monkey’ off our backs when it comes to World Cup cricket… there is no pressure during the year, but when we get to the World Cup, it all becomes rather overwhelming.
Nicole: Do the three individual captains work together in the different formats?
Faf: AB and I grew up together, which makes it easy and natural for us to be in a partnership. Hashim has just been appointed and we will support him as much as we can. I am looking forward to seeing what he brings to the team. We have lost a lot of key, experienced players recently, so your medium experienced guys like myself need to step up now. The nice thing is that we are all close as a team, in a nice relaxed environment, and we’re just trying to win games together.