Du Plessis raced to his 11th ODI ton at Johannesburg on Sunday taking South Africa to a comprehensive victory chasing a modest Sri Lankan total.
Du Plessis has been at his best at Number 3 (from where he batted in Johannesburg) - 10 of his 11 hundreds have come batting at this position from where he averages an impressive 54.63. His average drops to 45.41 from Number 4.
The transformation in Du Plessis’ ODI career came in 2014 during a tri-series in Zimbabwe, involving the hosts and Australia. Until then, in 50 ODIs, he had scored 1256 runs at an average of 29.2 with no hundreds. He made a remarkable turnaround in the tri-series making three centuries and a 96 in the finals to grab the Man of the Series Award and win the series for South Africa.
Hereafter, he has 11 tons in 80 matches at an average of 58.79. He has registered 33 scores of 50 or more, which is the best by any South African and also the fourth best, after Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Kane Williamson and Rohit Sharma, in this time frame.
The strike rate too has risen significantly in this time period. In his first 50 ODIs, the South African had made runs at a rate of 83.67 but that has shot up to 90.14 in the period post that, with a score of fifty or more in roughly every three matches.
The absence of De Villiers has had an effect on all South African batsmen except Du Plessis. He is South Africa's best batsman (in terms of averages) in matches where De Villiers hasn’t been a part of the playing eleven.
He averages 63.64 and has scored more than 1000 runs without De Villiers in the team, registering four hundreds and as many fifties. No other South African batsman averages more than 45 in the absence of De Villiers and only one other (apart from Du Plessis) - David Miller - has more than one hundred.
Du Plessis has been in exceptional form since 2018. He has aggregated 701 runs in just 13 innings at a stunning average of 77.88 and strike rate of 91.87, including three hundreds and two fifties.
All the other South African batsmen (who have scored above 300 runs) average below 40 in this time-frame.
Thus, for South Africa to have any chance at lifting their maiden World Cup trophy, it is imperative for their captain to fire.
First Published: March 4, 2019, 8:15 PM IST