Cape Town - Proteas batsman Faf du Plessis is relishing the opportunity to play in the West Indies and believes that the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) can open up a new and exciting chapter in his career when he leads the St. Kitts & Nevis Patriots this summer.
Pretoria-born Du Plessis, 31, will feature in the Proteas squad for their forthcoming tour of the Caribbean and will then captain the Patriots in the fourth edition of the CPL, which is scheduled to take place between June 29-7 August 7.
Speaking exclusively to www.cplt20.com, Du Plessis said that he was excited by the chance to play in the Caribbean for the first time in his career.
“When you look at the amount of international Test, ODI and T20 cricket that’s being played around the world, it’s funny to think that this will be the first time that I will get to play in the West Indies. I’ve been fortunate to play for my country for the last five years, but for whatever reason it hasn’t come to pass. I guess you could say that it has been a long time coming, but I’m really excited to finally be playing in the Caribbean.
“I’ve heard nothing but good things about the CPL. Off the field, the Caribbean people are great fans and provide an incredible atmosphere, which I have yet to fully experience. And this year, on it, I think the competition is going to grow from strength to strength with a really high calibre of players across each of the six teams. It will undoubtedly be a step into the unknown because I’m not familiar with the conditions, but that’s the kind of challenge you live for as a cricketer.
“After my (finger) injury I’m feeling fresh and ready to get out there and try and be a positive influence for the Proteas and then the Patriots. I just can’t wait to get started!”
Growing up, Du Plessis was a huge fan of West Indies cricket and remembers a chance encounter with a legend which helped shape his focus for a career in cricket.
“Back in 2003 I was invited down to the nets to help out bowling to the West Indies players who were preparing for the Cricket World Cup. When I look back that was an amazing experience. I remember watching Brian Lara and just being amazed how a player I had idolised on television was taking guard against me. It was such a thrill and ever since then I’ve always been interested in playing in the Caribbean. It has taken a while, but I’m glad to finally be close to getting there.”
Having previously featured in other T20 franchise tournaments across the world including the Indian Premier League (IPL) and Big Bash, du Plessis, who enjoys a career T20 career average of 37.68 in 35 games to date at an impressive strike rate of 132.64, is excited to now get the chance to sample the unique challenges of CPL.
“Any tournament who can attract top class ‘marquee’ players is obviously one that’s on the rise, and when you look across all six CPL squads, there’s a heck of a lot of talent there”, he said.
“South African players play the game hard. We chase balls to the wall and we run our hearts out. It’s what our fans expect and we don’t know any different. Australians and New Zealanders are the same. The West Indies culture is different but no less passionate, I’m sure, and it’s one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to come and play here. I’ve had a small taste of the Big Bash, and this is the next chapter in my career.
“What impresses me the most, though, is the depth of talent outside of the international players. With the local West Indies players such as Lendl Simmons and Samuel Badree, coupled with emerging Under-19 talent such as the Patriots’ own Alzarri Joseph, there’s a strong crop there and it’s obvious that the system of developing players is working.
“I have played with Badree at Chennai Super Kings and to see him progress to become the number one T20 bowler in the world has been incredible. I’m also looking forward to playing with Brad Hodge, who has a lot of experience in T20 cricket, while Thisara Perera is a hugely experienced and exciting talent from Sri Lanka.
“Playing in CPL will personally help me develop my captaincy by learning off others and I know I’ll be coming in cold to an extent. But hopefully the players will understand my style of play and we can try and grow together quickly.
“It’s always exciting to get to know new players. And, as captain, I know that I’ll have to hit the ground running. On paper we’re a strong squad, but names written on paper mean nothing. We want to first and foremost become a consistent team who are building over the next two years to be a real force for the future. And on the outset of this year’s CPL, I’m very happy where we are.”
St. Kitts & Nevis Patriots squad: Lendl Simmons, Faf du Plessis, Samuel Badree, Brad Hodge, Thisara Perera, Jonathan Carter, Krishmar Santokie, Evin Lewis, Tabraiz Shamsi, Kieran Powell, JJ Smuts, Devon Thomas, Shamarh Brooks, Tino Best, Jeremiah Louis, Alzarri Joseph, Nikhil Dutta