Former South Africa captain Faf du Plessis believes Mahendra Singh Dhoni, among others, helped him mature as a leader, adding that the former India skipper is tactically one of the best in the business.
Du Plessis had two long stints with IPL side Chennai Super Kings — 2011-2015 and 2018-2021 — before he moved to Royal Challengers Bangalore as captain last season.
Du Plessis said when he realised he was not going to be a leader like former Proteas skipper Graeme Smith or Dhoni, he decided to just be himself.
“I think what was really good for me to go through (during his career) was the conviction that I am not going to be Graeme Smith as a captain, I’m not going to be Stephen Fleming as a captain, I’m not going to be MS Dhoni as a captain.
“In order for me to be true to who I am as a person, I need to be me. Because if you’re not being you, then people will see through it, maybe not when you’re doing well but definitely when you are under pressure, or under-performing, the real you will reveal itself,” du Plessis said in a RCB podcast.
Du Plessis said during his debut season with CSK, he used to spend a lot of time with former New Zealand captain and Chennai team chief coach Stephen Fleming, just picking his brains on captaincy and trying to imbibe the nuances of leadership.
“I always had this leadership perspective of learning from great leaders, it (leadership) was always something that I was fascinated about. When I initially came into the South African team, Graeme Smith was the captain. I was like, Wow, this guy’s got an amazing presence when he speaks — like this big, blinding roar at you, and he just dominated the room while speaking. So I was like, that’s a leader, right?,” he said.
“I got an opportunity to go to Chennai (CSK) as a young-ish phase in my career. Stephen Fleming is one of the great leaders within the game, obviously, for New Zealand cricket also. The different aspect was him being a man manager, a guy who just works on relationships.
“And I go, Wow, that’s impressive. During my first season at CSK, I was sitting next to him (Fleming) and just asked him questions about captaincy and leadership, just to learn as much as I can. And then you put MS (Dhoni) on top of that, and you go, Wow, this guy’s (Dhoni) tactically odd to read the game like this. And you go, Okay, he is impressive as a captain,” he added.
The South African great said being criticised “unfairly” for shining the ball in the second Test against Australia at Hobart during the 2016 series had made him more determined to give it back to the home side. South Africa had won the second Test by an innings and 80 runs.
Du Plessis, who was leading the side, reportedly applied saliva to the ball with a lolly in his mouth. Though he was fined 100 per cent of his match fee, he was cleared to play the next Test at Adelaide.
“I was very unfairly criticised for shining that ball and the media absolutely ripped into me; they labelled me as a cheat and attacked my character… before the third Test every newspaper was like ‘Faf du Plessis (is a) cheat.
“It was just bad and I walked out to bat at Adelaide (for the first pink ball third Test) and there were 50,000 boos… as loud as it can get.”
Du Plessis said the episode brought out the fighter in him and he scored a century in the first innings. South Africa, though, went on to lose the match by seven wickets despite his 118.
“I was like this is what I was born for (to fight). This is the fighter in me and then you get a 100 in the Test match. Even when I was on 50, everyone booed me. Even when I went on 100, half the stadium clapped, while the other half still booed (me). It let a flame inside of me, ‘you cannot get me out today because of what’s happening out there’,” said du Plessis.