In India, there was a common sight- not merely a saying- that when Tendulkar used to get out, people would throw the darn television. And it’s actually happened. What else, one wondered, could be a more hurtful sight? And honestly speaking, if anyone was ever found criticising Tendulkar, in the days where the Little Master would get out cheaply, then the person, let it be said, won’t be treated nicely at all. Moreover, whenever the Indian team, speaking specifically of the Nineties would lose to Pakistan or would exit the world cup prematurely or rather lamely, picture the ODI world cup, 2007 (held in the West Indies), there were tons of fans who’d pelt stones at their houses.
Shabby treatment was meted ever so commonly to so many.
But guess what? India, as it turns out, isn’t the only country where one has been treated so shabbily. When someone like Faf du Plessis- a modern day icon of the limited-overs format, albeit one who’s hardly recognised with the same grandeur as a Williamson or Root can receive death threats, then what else can be said?
But if one were to keep India’s obsession with its cricketers, not too much of a surprise, to be honest aside, it’s a shocker that Faf du Plessis received death threats upon his team’s sudden and surprise exit in the 2011 World Cup, given the quarter-final loss to New Zealand.
Opening up on the entire incident, it was rather shocking that it wasn’t just Faf du Plessis alone who got death threats from the fans back home; as wife Imari too was at the receiving end of such a senseless act.
Here’s what Faf, who recently hit 199 in Test cricket in 2021, before announcing his retirement from the longest form had to say on the said incident:
“I received death threats after that [match]. My wife received death threats. We turned on social media and we were blown away. It became very personal. There were some very offensive things said that I won’t repeat.”
Though, that’s not all he happened to share; he would add, “It makes you introverted towards people and you put a shield up. All players go through this and it forces us to keep our circles very small. It’s why I’ve worked so hard on creating a safe space within our camp!”
Perhaps it doesn’t occur to us that Faf du Plessis is the only legitimate international star from South African batting cauldron in the absence of AB de Villiers, who’s done pretty much everything in his might to keep the Protean flag fluttering.
Well, look at the 2019 ODI world cup for example. The very tournament where there was no Steyn and no Morkel with Amla poorly out of form. The only century that was struck from South Africa’s end came from the blistering bat of Faf du Plessis.
Moreover, as captain- he happens to hold the record for the third-highest batting average (minimum 20 innings) in 50-over cricket. At 59.2- it’s reasonably brilliant, wouldn’t you say and doesn’t merit a player of his caliber to receive ire from anywhere.
When AB retired, at a juncture where the formidable Proteas team was all but winning, it’s greats marching ever so steadily toward their swan song, Faf was the building block between the remaining ones and the ones who were new to South African cricket.
But why Faf deserves a lot more respect- albeit he never really gets it- is this simple line of stat.
From the onset of 2014 until the end of 2019, there was never a single occasion where he averaged under 48 in ODI cricket, managing to score in excess of 60 in the last three consecutive calendar years. His peak performance coming in 2019, where he scored in excess of 800 ODI runs at an average of over 67.
Yes, Faf is no god. Back in the day when he dropped Bavuma from the team citing the fact that I’d rather pick players basis merit instead of dabbling with matters in the realm of colour, caste or creed, he did, eventually own up to his erroneous sense of judgement.
He’s wrongly meandered with the unwanted, finding a chewing gum of all things to meddle with the red ball during South Africa’s 2017 tour to Australia.
But given he’s been a tireless Protean solider, a batsman whom you’d count on to build an inning as also repair a broken one and give a hundred percent, day in and day out, Faf, it must be said deserved better than being given a death threat!