The Australian media have enjoyed a love affair with the South African captain Faf du Plessis ever since the skipper was spotted with a mint in his mouth during the second Test at Hobart.
“Lollygate” or “Mintgate” depending on which tabloid you picked up with your coffee in the morning took on a life on its own, especially after the situation was escalated through the Proteas’ own show of solidarity at the MCG.
The incident at the Adelaide airport with Proteas security personnel Zunaid Wadee and a Channel 9 reporter raised Du Plessis’s celebrity status to unprecedented levels with even US socialite Paris Hilton, who is in the country on her Gold Rush tour, pushed back in the queue.
So, after already expressing their views on Tuesday when Du Plessis was “only” handed a 100% match fine and docked three demerit points after being found guilty of ball tampering and not actually banned for today’s Test, the knives were sharpened again on Wednesday when the Proteas skipper spoke out for the first time since Hobart.
Peter FitzSimons, who is a columnist for the respected broadsheet the Sydney Morning Herald, was particularly critical of the ICC’s censure handed out to Du Plessis.
“Despite having the capacity to suspend him outright – the Einfeld solution – which would be a clear signal to the game that we bloody well mean this, and if you break the rules we will have your guts for garters and hang you on a peg as a warning to others – they wimped out and merely fined him his match fee, meaning he is at least free to play in the third Test starting in Adelaide on Thursday,” wrote FitzSimons.
The former Wallaby rugby player went further.
“All up, it meant a very rich fellow got a bit of a slap on the wrist, with a mild financial punishment, but otherwise business as usual. The South Africans appeal against even the slap is completely ludicrous, and they need to take an uppercut out of petty cash, and give themselves one.”
However, it was The Courier Mail – a tabloid in the finest sense of its form – who really zoned in on “Captain Charming”
Correspondent Ben Horne stated that the “South African captain Faf du Plessis argues he’s no cheat but he’s only succeeded in making complete fools of Hashim Amla and all his teammates” in reference to Amla and the rest of the Proteas show of solidarity at the MCG last Friday.
Horne’s colleague, Ben Dorries, took real aim writing that South Africa “have acted like spoiled brats” and that “Faf has carried on like a clown throughout the whole saga”.
Dorries did, though, make a u-turn in his column when he stated “but he (Du Plessis) was right about a few things in his remarkable Adelaide press conference”.
Dorries went further saying “The whole saga just has so many grey areas” and “You can bet your bottom dollar that for every ball tampering incident which has come to light over the past few decades, there are another 100 which haven’t. Just legalise ball tampering and play on.”
With Cricket South Africa advising Du Plessis to keep back his appeal at this stage and the pink-ball Test getting underway today, the local newspapers here Down Under may just have to filed with all the woes of Australian cricket pretty soon.