EXCLUSIVE: Francois du Plessis has admitted he will have torn loyalties for the start of another Champions League campaign when tournament rules dictate he lines up for Chennai Super Kings.
The 29-year-old South African all-rounder has played his whole career for the Titans in domestic cricket, who have also qualified for this year’s competition, but instead of playing alongside his mates he will pull on Chennai’s yellow jersey with IPL franchises taking priority for players.
It leaves du Plessis, who also had a successful spell with Lancashire between 2008 and 2009, facing a difficult dilemma – particularly as Chennai’s opening group match in the tournament is against Titans at Ranchi on September 22.
“It’s a tough one because I’ve been playing for the Titans for my whole life, and now I’ll be playing for Chennai,” he admitted. “I’d definitely like to play for the Titans one day in the Champions League because it’s a team that’s very close to my heart, but you don’t really have a choice – you play for your IPL team first.
“Last year, it was the same thing. The Titans went to the Champions League for the first time, and when you’re seeing your mates playing together, it means a little bit more.”
Du Plessis signed for Chennai in 2011 but had to wait until last year to make his debut, scoring 121 runs in their four matches at an impressive strike rate of 147.56 and while the professional in him will want to continue his successful run, he admits playing against the Titans will be difficult.
“I’m a little bit sad,” he said. “I’ve played a lot of cricket for the Titans in my career before I started playing for South Africa – that’s basically where it all started for me.
“As a domestic cricketer, the Champions League is the most important time in the calendar. It’s the only time when you are really getting exposed to international players in international conditions. It’s the pinnacle for a domestic cricketer.
“Not the last year but the year before, I got five wickets in the domestic final for the Titans, and we won the game. It was awesome to be a part of that, but I wasn’t part of the Champions League and it would be really nice one day if I could play for the Titans in this competition.”
Despite his torn loyalties and his success at breaking into South Africa’s Test team, however, du Plessis is still a huge fan of the Champions League format and is relishing taking part again.
“It’s the pinnacle, and it’s a fantastic tournament,” he added. “The standard of cricket is very, very high with all the different international players playing for their domestic teams.
“It’s great for it to be in India because, from a South African point of view, it’s great for our players to test themselves in different conditions.”
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