Who is Francois Du Plessis? was the question on everyone's lips when the club first signed him back in February. But eight months on, Faf, as he is commonly known, has made a positive impact both on and off the field, and endeared himself to all Lancashire supporters.
At 24, he is an exceptional talent, and his professional approach to cricket and his hunger to do well, led to the club extending his current contract by a further three years. So how has the boy from Pretoria enjoyed his first season in county cricket?“
Summarise your first year with Lancashire – was it everything you thought or hoped it would be? Rain, Rain and more Rain! But on a serious note, I have really enjoyed my first year at the club, and am looking forward to returning next season. The standard of cricket is much higher than I thought it would be, and the set-up at Lancashire is more professional than I ever expected. I’d heard they had one of the biggest fan bases in county cricket, but it’s only when you play for the club that you understand just how passionate and supportive they are.
What have been your personal highlights this season?
The two matches that stand out for me are the FPT match against Yorkshire at Old Trafford, when we won in the last over and I ended the match not out on 77. Plus our Twenty20 group match at Trent Bridge, when we were chasing a challenging total and we won with 4 balls to spare. I remained not out 57 and was awarded the Man of the Match. It would be remise of me not to mention the atmosphere at the Old Trafford Twenty20 Roses match. To play in front of a sell out crowd is always special, but to hear the chants and signing between both sets of supporters, reminds you how important fixtures between these two counties are.
You’ve grown up with and play alongside many high profile players in South Africa, but what did you learn from being around the likes of Andrew Flintoff, Mohammod Yousuf and Stuart Law?
Stuart has been fantastic. I’ve spent lots of hours talking to him about cricket, particularly batting. After each knock, we’ll sit down and analyse my innings, talk through the dismissal and how I could improve next time. Although Yousuf wasn’t with us for long, something I’ll always remember is his calming nature, particularly out in the middle. If you were batting with him or even just in training, he had a calming almost serene presence in the squad. Fred has a real aura about him and is a true professional. He was one of the first players I met when I arrived at the club, and he, like everyone, went out of their way to make me feel so accepted in the changing room.
Having played your first full season of County Cricket, what would you say are the main differences between South African and English domestic cricket?
The wickets in England seam a lot more than in South Africa and play a lot slower. The conditions also mean the bowlers are able to swing the ball more. County squads have more depth, when a player gets injured, there seems to be others of equal ability to replace them. And simply because of the decks here in England, the quality of spinners is much higher.
Which opposition player has impressed you the most this season (can be batsman or bowler) and why?
It’s a shame I never got to play against MarkRamprakash, as his reputation as one of the greatest county batsman precedes him. As for bowlers, it has to be Mushtaq Ahmed. Although he didn’t take many wickets against us, just the hype surrounding him and his success in county cricket, made you think more about your shots than any other bowler I’ve faced this season.
We don’t want to mention the rain too much, but it’s very hard not to this season; how do you keep yourself entertained in the dressing room for hours on end?
Listening to the hours of colourful, verging on ridiculous banter flying around the dressing room.
You’ll be playing in the Twenty20 Champions League with the Nashua Titans in December – if you win … what will you do with your piece of the winner’s cheque?
I would just spend it! I don’t think I would be sensible with it at all. It’s money you never dreamed you would have or planned for; so I can envisage spending it on luxury items for my girlfriend, family and friends.
After being away from South African for nearly six months, what are the first things you will do when you get back?
A Braai (South African BBQ) in the sun with lots of meat! The type of meats available in South Africa is more varied, better quality and is much cheaper!
You’ve recently extended your contract for a further 3-years; what do you hope to achieve personally and with the team over this period?
To make Number 4 my own, score 1000 plus runs per season, be known as the best fielder in country cricket, and develop my leg-spin even further so it plays a much more important role in each match. As a squad member, I hope to win at least one trophy per season, and be part of the first Lancashire squad to win the Division One County Championship in over 74 years.
Your last home match for Lancashire this season is against Kent at Liverpool Cricket Club, which is very apt, as this was your first English Club.
When I finished high school, I was looking to play in England to gain further experience in different cricketing condition. My agent in South Africa suggested Liverpool Cricket Club, as it was a nice ground and had a very good wicket. I don’t remember all my stats from that season, but I know I had a successful year with both bat and ball.
Interview by: Rebecca Trbojevich