“It’s not like I’m stiff or anything,” quips Faf du Plessis, as Wanted’s fashion director asks him to crouch down for a shot (the photography kind, not the cricket kind).
It’s the day after the first one-day international against Sri Lanka, in which Du Plessis played a quintessential captain’s innings: 112 not out, at pretty much a run a ball, which garnered him the man-of-the-match award.
But despite many hours in the field and at the crease, this morning the South African cricket captain is chipper. The previous day’s match brought a welcome return to form for the Proteas, after an embarrassingly poor Test series against the Sri Lankans — about which the less said, the better.
Instead, we’re here to talk lifestyle: fashion and watches and Du Plessis’ skills in the kitchen. “Style” and “cricket” are two words that aren’t often used in proximity (unless we’re talking about cover drives), but Du Plessis is that rarest of creatures — a cricketer who can wear a suit without looking as if he’s borrowed it from a mate for a court appearance. Not that we’re suggesting any international cricketers would fit that description, ahem.
“We never really get to do suits that often, because we’re out in the sun the whole time and are playing sport. But even when we go on tour, you can’t be packing a ridiculous amount of clothes — it’s just not practical,” Du Plessis says. “So when I’m at home and I have an opportunity, I enjoy fashion.”
You’re likely to spot Du Plessis sporting a suit in the team box if he’s not playing that match. Yet despite his well-known love for dressing up, he appears to favour classic, casual staples. “A good coat or leather jacket with some nice boots. Yes, that’s a nice look,” he muses.
He’s also a classic timepiece man. In fact, the Panerai ambassador assures me that this has been his favourite watch brand ever since he was playing club cricket in England as a 19-year-old. But Du Plessis couldn’t afford to buy one back then. Years later, his first luxury watch purchase was a Panerai. And the sponsorship grew out of that, after the brand spotted him posting about his watch on social media.
Du Plessis is currently sporting a Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech 3 Days Automatic watch. “The carbon fibre is really light: it works really well. They’ve launched a submersible range that is a little bit more active — obviously diver’s watches are quite big,” he says. “It’s nice for me to know that this watch can take a bit of everything: travelling, whatever.”
He also asked Carlo Hayes, “the guy who designs my wedding rings” (plural intended), to make him a carbon-fibre wedding band to match this latest watch. “It’s 100% carbon fibre and it’s incredibly light. It’s so cool,” he says. Perhaps we can expect sporty wedding rings to be the next “it” accessory for athletes?
RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
Beyond fashion, Du Plessis has a healthy number of interests off the cricket field: from starting the First XI wine label (the 2014 and 2015 vintages are sold out), to surfing and riding his motorbike. Cooking is a particular passion. In fact, Du Plessis owns shares in a Stellenbosch restaurant, Bistro 13. “I wanted to dip my toes in and just see what the restaurant industry would look like — if it was something that I would pursue after cricket,” he says.
However, Du Plessis is mostly content to continue to indulge in cooking as a hobby, rather than a second career. “I can now say that a restaurant won’t be something that I’ll be going into after cricket,” he says. “It is a full-time thing. You need to be there all the time. You need to be on your feet the whole day. I’ve got a lot of respect for chefs and the way they go about their business. Obviously, my job is also on my feet the whole day, but it’s moving around — I’m used to that. So, yeah, I’m very happy just to play a back-room role.”
At home, he’s a food experimenter, but still does things by the book. “What I enjoy most about cooking is actually trying new things all the time: so, just picking up a recipe book and going, ‘Okay, we haven’t made this. Let’s do this together. Let’s open up a bottle of wine. You do that, and I’ll do this, and then put it together.’ It’s about the experience of creating something, which is my passion as well.”
You need to see yourself getting through a period in which there is a little bit of pressure involved: see yourself doing well; see yourself winningFaf du Plessis
There is room for innovation, but always within a structure. “I need to know – da, da, da — get all my ingredients ready, and then just cook away,” he says. This approach translates to the cricket field — and his captaincy.
“In the beginning, my captaincy was very structured,” he says. “But that’s almost evolved into a structure that leaves a bit of room for all the other stuff — out-the-box thinking, the X factor, the kind of planning where you allow your skill to just shine.”
With the Cricket World Cup dominating June, we can expect similar flexibility from the Proteas’ approach — whether it’s opening the bowling with a spinner, or switching the batting order depending on the match situation.
The South African team has long worn the mantle of chokers — particularly at the World Cup, and for this year’s edition mental preparation has been crucial. “Maybe because it’s my personality, but I feel more relaxed than we were before. I feel that we put a lot of pressure on ourselves,” Du Plessis says. “So, we’ve been focusing on trying to release some of that pressure by becoming a little bit more free in the way that we play.”
Visualisation is an important technique that Du Plessis and the Proteas use to cope with the pressure out on the field. “You need to see yourself getting through a period in which there is a little bit of pressure involved: see yourself doing well; see yourself winning,” he says. “So it’s using the imagery of being positive, rather than the anxiety of how that makes you feel. When that anxiety comes, it’s about knowing how to deal with it. I mean, everyone goes through tenseness and negative thoughts — it’s just finding a way to replace that.”
On a personal level, Du Plessis worked hard at cultivating this mental toughness and emotional awareness. “What cricket does is — because it’s such a performance: up and down; up and down — it takes you to highs and lows. So you’re depressed, and then you’re high; you’re depressed, and then you’re high,” he says.
“But actually, you will have more bad days than good days. So I think, as a sportsman, that’s something that you come to terms with. The older you get, the more experience you get, then you know how to deal with it better. In my own life, I’ve tried to make sure that whether I have a great day or a bad day, I treat it with the same outlook.
“It’s okay if we lose: life goes on,” Du Plessis continues. “And that’s the message that I’m giving to the team, even with going to the World Cup. If you lose, the sun will come up the next day. Life doesn’t stop there.”
• From the June edition of Wanted 2019.