Derbyshire star Leus du Plooy on his ambitions for the new cricket season and beyond
- Credit: Archant
Derbyshire cricketing star Leus du Plooy looks forward to the new season, when he will also be playing for the Welsh Fire squad in the new Hundred tournament starting this July.
Leus du Plooy ended his first season at Derbyshire with a 100 at Lord’s – one of the cricket ambitions he could only dream of when growing up in South Africa.
It was a fine way for the left-handed batsman to end his first season of county cricket and another step towards his ultimate ambition to play for his country and emulate his cricketing hero A B de Villiers.
He heads into 2020 full of confidence having had a year experiencing English conditions and having also been one of the few Derbyshire players drafted for the new Hundred competition where he will be able to put himself in the spotlight in a high-profile format in front of a global audience.
Derbyshire Life caught up with the 25-year-old ahead of the start of the new season and just before he was due to head out to Zimbabwe for some warm weather training to get ready for the rigours of an English summer of first class cricket.
He said: ‘Last year was a nice introduction to county cricket, especially being part of a Derbyshire side that got to T20 finals day for the first time.
‘We all know that Championship cricket in England is one of the toughest places to play as a batsman so I got a good taste of what that’s like and now I will definitely be more prepared for the new season.
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‘It was very tough adapting to English conditions if I’m being honest but at the end of the day you are playing professional cricket for a reason, so you have to trust your talent and learn to adapt. Luckily, I had the whole pre-season to work on some technical things and then it was a case of applying that and having your game plan sorted to deal with certain bowlers. Our technical team make sure that all the guys can adapt to whatever the conditions are going to be.
‘I didn’t think I would be playing county cricket at this stage in my life, but my ambition has always been to play for South Africa, that is every young cricketer’s dream. That’s still my aim and hopefully that will take care of itself and for now I’m just trying to do as well as possible at the county level.
‘In England you have big differences in conditions as you go around the country, and the wickets in Durham, Somerset and then Surrey vary a lot and you have to adapt from week to week. English cricket is in a great place at the moment and exposes you to so many different types of bowlers and pitches so there’s no surprise that the England team are doing as well as they are.’
The highlight of last season was that appearance at Edgbaston when Derbyshire made it to T20 finals day for the first time in the club’s history. The Falcons lost in the semi-final but having made it to the big day it has whetted the players’ appetites for more of that success.
Leus said: ‘It’s never nice losing but it was still a magnificent experience, just soaking up the atmosphere and playing in front of a crowd that big. Hopefully we will learn from that and take some inspiration from knowing that we, as Derbyshire, can actually get there. Once you make it to finals day it’s anybody’s to win. It’s getting there that’s the hard part and we have done that now so we know we can go a few steps further and bring some silverware back to Derby.
‘I think that success will come, we just need to keep focussed on the things we need to do day to day, the processes, and then successes will take care of themselves.’
Derbyshire will also want to make progress in the red ball game and having notched that ton at the back end of 2019, Leus is eager to get back to the four-day County Championship matches.
He said: ‘It’s always nice ending a season like that, especially when it’s at Lord’s – the home of cricket. I remember being 13 and walking into Lord’s for the first time to watch South Africa play England and I never dreamed that 11 years later I would be playing there and scoring a century. It took time to sink in, but it was really special. It was a shame that the game wasn’t going anywhere as it’s always better when you hit a good score in a winning cause but it was still a great experience and it just made me more hungry for success this coming season.’
Leus is also one of four Derbyshire players to be handed a contract in the new cricket competition The Hundred. It’s an attempt to bring some of the glamour of the IPL to the domestic game but with a new 100-ball format. With eight new city franchises and top-class players from all round the world coming to the party the hope is that it will attract big crowds and TV audiences, especially as the games will be broadcast on BBC TV as well as Sky.
Leus is excited to be involved in the inaugural Hundred season after being drafted by Welsh Fire, along with Derbyshire teammate Ravi Rampaul, Australian internationals Steve Smith and Mitchell Starc and England’s Jonny Bairstow.
Leus made the cut thanks to his three half-centuries and an average of 39 during the 2019 Vitality Blast.
He said: ‘It’s a great opportunity for all the players on the county circuit for many reasons. The exposure will be great and the chance to work with guys who have had great experience and success at international level means the competition will be of the best possible standard. I have worked with Gary Kirsten, the Welsh Fire coach, before in South Africa and a few of my heroes are playing in the Welsh Fire squad so I’m looking forward to rubbing shoulders with them and tapping into their knowledge.
‘No-one really knows how well they are going to adjust to the new format. I think only time will tell. But ultimately, it’s just a game of cricket – you’ve got a bat and they have a ball and you don’t need to over-complicate it. One of the beauties of this format is to make it simpler and I don’t think you need to approach it too differently. After a warm-up game or two we will be ready.
‘As I said, it’s a great opportunity to get exposure at the highest level and to come up against international players, especially for the guys playing at smaller counties like Derbyshire who don’t get as much TV time.
‘The only downside is that the guys playing in the Hundred will not be playing in the one day competition for Derbyshire which will test the depth of our squad but we can see that as a positive as it gives other people a chance to showcase what they can do.’
The Vitality Blast has been moved forward in the calendar to accommodate the Hundred so Leus will be around to make an impact for Derbyshire.
He said: ‘That’s a chance to get used to the high intensity of the shorter format and it’s great that it leads into the Hundred. It will be an exciting period for cricket in the country.’
That’s all ahead as we speak to Leus in pre-season and he hopes the Zimbabwe trip will get him well prepared.
‘I’m certainly looking forward to some African sun,’ he laughed. ‘There’s only so much you can do in the winter in England. It’s important to manage yourself and know what you need as a player. It’s very different for me coming from the southern hemisphere where most of your pre-season is spent training on turf wickets. Zimbabwe gives us the chance to do that and I also think the best way to learn is by playing games. Three weeks in Zimbabwe will put us in good stead.
‘The weather is the main downside of playing in England but it’s outside your control, so you have to make the best of what you have got.’
Good preparation and confidence will hopefully see Derbyshire start 2020 brightly.
Leus said: ‘There’s plenty of optimism going into the season and rightly so. There’s a lot of motivation for guys to get better with some healthy competition so we will push each other and ultimately get Derbyshire the results we need.’
Hopefully with another good season for Derbyshire and in the Hundred under his belt, Leus may edge closer to following in the international footsteps of his sporting hero A B de Villiers.
He said: ‘He went to the same high school as I did. I really admire the way he approaches the game and tries to entertain people. He came back to my school on numerous occasions as he was very proud of the school and I was fortunate enough to get to know him. He’s one of the nicest people I have ever met, and he always has time for you. It’s amazing how simple he keeps it and I really do look up to him as a role model in life.’
At Derbyshire, Leus has also learned from senior players like Wayne Madsen.
He said: ‘Wayne is a fantastic player and also a great human being which is the most important thing. It’s very easy to learn from someone like that. It’s hard to find people who are that good and are still willing to give you time. He’s someone else I really look up to and I’m very fortunate to be in the same side.’
The Hundred begins on 17th July when Welsh Fire travel to the Oval Invincibles. All games will be televised. u
County Championship Season
Due to coronavirus concerns the county cricket season has now been delayed until at least the end of May. The Vitality Blast season is due to begin on Friday, 29th May at The Incora County Ground with a home game against Leicestershire Foxes but please check.
For tickets, full fixture list and up-to-date information please visit the website at www.derbyshireccc.com