Faf du Plessis ready to steer Northern Superchargers to glory in The Hundred

FAF DU PLESSIS believes The Hundred is raising the standard of English cricket as he prepares to lead Northern Superchargers for the first time.

The former South Africa captain said that the tournament is giving domestic players important experience of franchise competition and the chance to rub shoulders with world-class talent.

His comments came ahead of tonight’s opening match for the Headingley-based side against Manchester Originals at Old Trafford.

“It’s definitely helping to raise the standard,” said du Plessis, who was speaking in Roundhay Park, Leeds, at a Superchargers’ promotional event to mark Yorkshire Day.

South Africa's Faf du Plessis hits out against England in 2017 - he will return to Headingley to lead the Northern Superchargers in the Hundred (Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWPix.com)

“I’ve seen first hand, in the IPL, in Indian cricket, when the younger guys get the opportunity to play with very experienced international players how that fast-tracks their learning and their game. If you can get a strong T20 tournament or, in this case, a strong tournament in the form of The Hundred, it’s very beneficial for your own country’s cricket.

“It just grows the talent pool and it fast-tracks the players’ skills and experience just by being around these great players.”

Du Plessis, 38, missed the inaugural Hundred last summer due to concussion suffered at the Pakistan Super League.

But he stayed around the squad to gain a greater understanding of it and the tournament as a whole in what can only assist Superchargers this time in their quest to succeed.

Northern Superchargers's Ben Stokes has pulled out of this year's The Hundred (Picture: SWpix.com)

“I tried very hard to be fit for the comp and frustratingly just couldn’t get ready, so now, touch wood, I’m ready to go and I’m really excited,” he said.

“It was nice for me to still be involved last year even though it wasn’t in my playing capacity.

“Basically, a decision was made by the team and by myself that I would stay on and obviously from a leadership perspective it was very beneficial for me to do that leading into this year. Consequently, I’ve got a better understanding of the guys in the team and although there are some new faces this time, I know a lot about the guys from last year.”

Although Ben Stokes was withdrawn from this year’s Hundred to manage his workload, with Jonny Bairstow following suit at Welsh Fire, there is still a strong mix of overseas and domestic talent in the second edition.

Faf du Plessis plays a shot for Quetta Gladiators' during the Pakistan Super League (PSL) T20 cricket match in 2021. (Picture: ASIF HASSAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Du Plessis believes Superchargers have signed two of the best “death” bowlers in the world in the shape of Pakistan’s Wahab Riaz and West Indies’ Dwayne Bravo, while also on the books are Matthew Potts, the Durham pace bowler who recently debuted for England, plus four Yorkshire players in the form of Adil Rashid, David Willey, Harry Brook and Adam Lyth.

Commenting on that strong Yorkshire involvement, du Plessis said: “I think it’s important to have that local flavour, players obviously based in Yorkshire, and a good thing to have those familiar faces. They’re all in good form, too, which really helps, particularly when it comes to these short tournaments.

“I think we’ve got a really good squad and a lot of good depth. We’ve brought some really good players in, like Adam Hose (of Warwickshire), along with Wahab Riaz and Dwayne Bravo, and managed to strengthen the balance of the team.”

Du Plessis is also enthused to be linking up again with Ottis Gibson, the Yorkshire head coach, who is working as James Foster’s assistant during the competition.

The pair know each other well from their time with South Africa, with Gibson having coached the Proteas side.

“I’m very excited about working with Ottis again,” said du Plessis. “I really enjoyed our relationship as captain and coach for South Africa, and I think we’re very lucky to have him with the Superchargers. I also know James Foster very well. It’s a really good management team that we’ve put in place.”

Neither the Superchargers men nor women qualified for last year’s knockouts, finishing fifth and sixth respectively in the eight-strong divisions.

Du Plessis felt that last year was “a year of feeling the tournament out, as much as anything” and “getting used to a new competition”. He is hoping for greater success this time around.

As to the wider question of the tournament’s success, and its place in the game, the batsman said: “I was very impressed with it last year; I thought it was an excellent competition. The general feeling right through, speaking to different guys, was the same.

“Initially we were all a little bit, ‘I’m not sure it’s going to work, why are you changing a format that’s already successful, T20 cricket?’ But it was very positive, the feedback from season one.”