Recently, Proteas coach Rob Walter had indicated that doors to the national team are open for senior pros like Du Plessis, Quinton de Kock and Rilee Rossouw.
But for that, Du Plessis wanted to reach his highest point of fitness after an elbow surgery that he underwent in September during the Caribbean Premier League (CPL 2023).
“I wouldn’t say the process is not on (his SA comeback). I mean, international cricket is still the pinnacle. You still feel like that's where cricket comes with the most pressure and that's what makes you really feel alive as a sportsman,” Du Plessis told PTI.
“But now, it's just about getting back into cricket after my operation, and a long layoff with my arm. So yeah, just taking the pressure off and just really enjoying playing some cricket again, and allowing my arm to get back to where it needs to get to,” he said.
“It (SA return) is just the process at the moment. South Africa has come out and said that there will be some T20 contracts coming out in March. So, then it's up to the players to perform and do well (in leagues and other international matches) to make sure that they are eligible for selection.”
In fact, Du Plessis has been one of the early-moving freelance cricketers hopping across T20 leagues, and he opined that the governing bodies will have to find a way to make international cricket co-exist with franchise cricket.
Du Plessis cited the example of New Zealand cricketers Trent Boult and Jimmy Neesham, who declined NZC Central Contracts recently to honour commitments to foreign leagues.
Even England Test captain Ben Stokes declined a three-year contract with the ECB, settling for a one-year deal instead.
“I find that cricket has changed so much now, you have all these amazing cricketers playing around the circuit. Things that's changed probably over the last couple of years or so that there weren't those T20 contracts (earlier).
“Now if you look at the world, there's a lot more players doing it (moving over to T20s). You know guys like Boult and Neesham from New Zealand recently went that way. So, it's good to see that the leagues are growing in terms of the pedigree that players are coming in. I think both are equally important for the game,” said Du Plessis.
However, Du Plessis said the cricket boards should find a middle-path.
“So, it's happening more and more. I think it's important that the countries realise that (players opting for T20s), and make sure that you keep your players playing international cricket.
“The last thing you want is guys stopping playing international cricket when they're 28-29 years old when they are supposed to be reaching their prime,” he said.
The 39-year-old is currently playing in the Abu Dhabi T10 for Samp Army, and he wants to sharpen his skills and fitness, leveraging on that experience to impress the South African establishment.
In that context, Du Plessis said playing in an all-out attacking format like T10 helped him regain touch with his own game.
“I was here probably about three years ago. As someone who had a template on how to play T20, I was surprised how different T10 was. The first time I was around, I didn't understand how to play the format. So, there's this huge emphasis placed on maximising the power play. And I find that quite tricky.
But this time around, I got a better expectation around what it looks like in terms of playing those first two overs and now I am certainly a bit more open to attacking,” he added.