Veteran South African wicketkeeper Mark Boucher was stopping up the gaps in Quinton de Kock’s training ahead of South Africa’s three-match ODI series against New Zealand on Thursday. Coach Gary Kirsten says the move will not only help De Kock refine his skills; it will also teach him to manage himself psychologically under the pressures of the international game. By ANT SIMS.
If buzzwords were relevant to names in cricket, then Quinton de Kock would be trending on your timeline right now. There is no other player more talked about, talked up or scrutinised than the young wicketkeeper who, rumour has it, is expected to eventually inherit the prized Protea wicketkeeping gloves.
That is, of course, provided De Kock adjusts to the pace and pressures of international cricket, not just with the gloves in hand, but also in terms of the psychological aspect.
As things stand, he has a reputation as being rather a loose cannon – with a volatility that reared its head in a four-day game last weekend, when he got into an altercation with Cobras player Alistair Gray at Newlands. De Kock reportedly had some choice words for Gray, and while the Cobras player does tend to get under people’s skin, it’s important for De Kock to keep his cool – a need that has been underlined by coach Gary Kirsten.
De Kock is currently waiting to find out when he has to appear in front of a disciplinary committee, and while he could be banned for two matches if he’s found guilty, there is a backlog on cases to hear before his case will come forward.
As for keeping his cool, it may turn out that Boucher’s intervention helps prevent disasters of the PR variety as well as refining De Kock’s more practical skills. When it comes to knowing how to make it at international level under intense scrutiny and immense pressure, there’s nobody more familiar with the ins and outs better than Boucher. It was therefore no surprise to see the legendary gloveman pitch up at the Proteas’ training ahead of their one-day series against New Zealand.
He wasn’t there to support his teammates or watch them, though. Boucher was there to consult with his potential heir. Whether the arrangement is once-off or a more permanent solution remains to be seen, but Kirsten was delighted to have the veteran involved in helping De Kock get to grips with the ins and outs of it all.
“We’re feeling it out at the moment. When Mark retired, I knew his vast experience would come in useful. Not just about the skills required in international cricket, but also the pressure of the game. I’m excited that he adds some value there, and he’s also excited to still be involved within the set-up,” Kirsten said.
“It’s important to have a foundation to work off when you get into an emotional situation, so you can deal with the pressures you are confronted with. It’s important for all of us to have that base.”
Getting under players’ skin is part and parcel of the international game, and one doesn’t have to look too far for examples. For instance, against New Zealand in the 2011 World Cup, even the normally relaxed Faf du Plessis got riled up. There was some argy bargy and South Africa eventually went crashing out of another ICC tournament, with everybody muttering the c-word.
If a simple domestic trundle can get De Kock riled up, one can’t help but wonder what would happen if he came to face with a particularly irksome international player. It’s therefore important that the youngster gets all the help he can to help him find his zen place, especially since he will keep wicket for all three of the ODI matches to allow AB de Villiers to focus and refine his captaincy a bit more.
“This does give us the opportunity to take a look at a young keeper who has some quality batting in him. He’s proved that he has the ability to bat well, and it’s almost similar to Boucher almost two decades ago when he came into the side showing he has really good batting ability [yet] came through as a keeper,” Kirsten said.
Kirsten has only met De Kock once before, and admits that the longest conversation they have had was about five minutes. But that’s about to change: the side assembled today for their first training ahead of their three-match series.
Although there is a question mark over De Kock’s readiness for international cricket, Kirsten believes that the youngster will soon learn the intricacies of team culture and discipline.
“I’m not concerned about it. What the Protea team stands for, certainly at Test level, we try [and] filter through to all our formats. What underpins our success is our team culture, and he’ll get a very good understanding of what that is in the next few days – I think that will help him.
“I think the senior players will also help him understand what the responsibilities are,” said Kirsten. DM
Photo: South Africa’s Mark Boucher reacts during a practice session ahead of their first test cricket match against India in Nagpur February 5, 2010. The first test starts in Nagpur on Saturday. REUTERS/Arko Datta
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