Faf du Plessis addressed the media at Adelaide Oval on Wednesday © Getty Images
Speaking for the first time since being found guilty of ball-tampering on Tuesday evening, South Africa’s stand-in captain Faf du Plessis used the first half of his pre-match press conference to continue to claim innocence. Du Plessis began with an explanation of what he considered the difference between altering the condition of the ball and merely looking after it, and that he firmly believed he was only doing the latter.
“Yesterday was the hearing and the verdict was that I was guilty. I completely disagree with that. I felt like I have done nothing wrong,” du Plessis said. “There’s two ways of looking at it, either ball-shining or ball-tampering. For me, if you talk about ball-tampering, that is something that’s wrong. It’s picking the ball, scratching the ball.
“Shining is something that all cricketers would say is not in that same space. It is something all cricketers do and I think there will be a lot of emphasis after this incident on where the game is going, what the ICC is going to do about it. I don’t believe shining is wrong. It’s not like I was trying to cheat or anything. I was shining a ball and I see no problem with that.”
Du Plessis admitted he had a “massive mint” in his mouth and was not trying to be insidious about what he was doing in using saliva that had mixed with the sweet to shine the ball, but he questioned why he would have escaped charge had his actions not been seen by television cameras. “I wasn’t trying to actually hide it,” he said. “I put a massive mint in my mouth and my mouth was that wide open. Whether you shine the ball with a sweet in your mouth or whether you don’t see the sweet, and the sweet is still there, it’s exactly the same thing.”
And according to du Plessis, he has received enough support from both current and former players, including Australian captain Steven Smith, who in his own press conference said his team “along with every other, shine the ball the same way”, to know that it is commonplace in the game.
“The ex-players have spoken about it. It’s part of our game. It’s been an unwritten rule,” du Plessis said. “Some people use sunblock to shine the ball. I know of people who carry lip-ice in their pocket and shine the cricket ball or gum. So many things. It’s just so difficult to say what is right and what is wrong. To say that when you have a sweet in your mouth, it’s wrong but when you have a sweet in your mouth and the camera doesn’t pick up on it, it’s okay. It’s just a really massive grey area.”
The everybody-does-it defense made headlines in the lead-up to du Plessis’ hearing, when footage emerged of Virat Kohli shining a ball when he appeared to have gum in his mouth, and David Warner shining a ball after applying lip-balm to his mouth. Neither Kohli nor Warner were charged – the visuals of their actions emerged after the ICC’s five-day window for reporting incidents – and although du Plessis would not be drawn on whether they should have been, he asked for consistent application of the rules. “I just ask that everyone gets treated the same way,” he said. “The ICC has taken a stance against me to use me as a scapegoat. All you can ask for is that everyone gets treated the same.”
He also, along with Cricket South Africa CEO Haroon Lorgat, who was present at the press conference, hoped there would be clarity on what constitutes an artificial substance, and believes his case could lead to thorough research into whether sugar can make the ball swing.
“Ninety percent of the time, cricketers have got sugary saliva,” du Plessis said. “Whether we are drinking Powerade, Coke, Gatorade, eating sweets, sucking on jellies, our mouths are always full of sugar. It’s such a grey area in the laws of cricket and its something that will be looked at. Us as cricketers, we think that it makes a difference but we are not scientists. We are not sure if it makes a difference. It’s opened up a can of worms, what’s going to happen now, going forward with the game. Something like this needed to happen to create a little bit more awareness on it.”
Lorgat confirmed that CSA will engage the ICC on the matter at the next cricket committee meeting but until then, du Plessis has asked not be branded underhanded and for the practice to be considered acceptable. “It’s never nice to be in a position like this because with ball tampering, it’s a really negative connotation that gets put to it and the term cheat has been thrown around and that’s something I do not take lightly,” he said.
“It’s something I don’t want to be associated with in any space and as I said, I felt I did nothing wrong. I was shining the cricket ball. I’ve been doing that for my whole career and every single team I have played in does exactly the same thing and it’s not something that’s frowned upon my anyone, not even the umpires. So to make such a big thing, I just think it was a little bit blown out of proportion by everyone.”
He has also thanked his team-mates for their united showing of support when Hashim Amla addressed the media at the MCG last Friday, with the entire squad alongside him. “If you know the character of someone like Hashim Amla, you will understand that for him to go out and stand in front of the press and say the things that he said, he will feel very strongly about it. He is just the most honest guy on the planet so for him to say that means a lot,” du Plessis said. “It’s speaks a lot about our culture and how we don’t let any outside noise creep into our space.”
The noise may not have got in, but du Plessis has been warned to expect a hostile reception at the Adelaide Oval, perhaps from the opposition but definitely from the crowd. While he does not think Smith and co will have anything because he believes they do the same thing.
“I think the Aussies won’t talk about it at all because they know that’s part of their team as well. It’s not been driven by the cricketers. You don’t expect to go out there against Australia and walk out with a clap and welcome to the crease. It’s part of playing against Australia, you expect that and that’s something I have grown used to,” he said, but challenged fans to understand his perspective. “I’m hoping that cricketing sense will be prevail. It’s obviously something that if you are a cricketer and you understand cricket that this is not actually that big of a deal.”
With the ball in the spotlight, du Plessis’ tactics on shining the pink ball will come into focus but he has indicated it may not need as much work. “The timing is perfect that it’s the pink ball. Apparently it swings more. It will be interesting to see how to shine the ball. I will probably just touch my finger like that and get a little bit of spit on it,” he joked.
And will he still use mints as the sugary substance of choice? “Possibly just for bad breath now, not for shining the ball. I still the feel exactly the same way. Whether I was guilty. or not, whether the sentence was different or not, I still exactly the same way. Maybe that needs to change now but possibly for this one game, I just maybe need to stay away from the mints.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo