Quinton de Kock is struggling for form in the current World Cup, and with just one match remaining before the knockout stages, perhaps a break would be as good as a holiday for the prodigious youngster. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
What were you doing when you were 22 years old? Chances are you probably weren’t representing your country at a global tournament in Australia and New Zealand. But that’s exactly what Quinton de Kock is up to. Age in sport is mostly obsolete these days: the more talented a player, the less likely that his age will be the subject of discussions.
Of course sportsmen have a warped perception of reality, including a warped perception about what they are supposed to act like at a certain age. Cricket’s professionalism does not allow for time to “act your age”, not on the field anyway. If you are talented, you are given a job and you are expected to do that job no matter where you might be on a personal level. Age becomes irrelevant and whether you are acting your age or not is often forgotten, especially if you are a seen as prodigy.
But sometimes, it is important to remember that sportsmen are still just humans. And humans, especially the young ones, can be quite emotional. Now, this is by no means saying that Quinton de Kock’s lack of form has him crying into his pillow at night, but it sure as hell will be impacting him as a young player in a squad that has serious pressure heaped on them.
De Kock is known as a sportsman, not an intellectual; but as a human being, he is prone to all the fallibilities of the human psyche. Since returning from the ankle injury which very nearly ruled him out of the World Cup, De Kock has not looked the same sprightly player everyone came to know. He returned far sooner than initially expected, which will leaving the cynics pondering whether he did actually fully recover from injury.
While there has been the odd occasion where De Kock was dismissed by a good ball, he has mostly got out because of poor shot selection and dodgy technique. He seemed like the same Quinton de Kock who, when he first went on tour to Sri Lanka, looked like a club cricketer. Those issues were rectified thanks to his sheer bloody-mindedness. The youngster insisted that his coach at the Lions, Geoffrey Toyana, spend day in and day out with him practising throw-downs and combating his weakness against the spin. The results were evident in South Africa’s next match, and De Kock has steadily progressed through the ranks to become an impressive and important part of the team since then. Now he has seemingly regressed, and South Africa needs to decide what to do with him.
When asked about the youngster’s disposition last week, Coach Russell Domingo said that he just needed a little bit of TLC. Now, of course TLC is important, but so is knowing when to give somebody a break for their own good.
South Africa’s next match is on Thursday, against the United Arab Emirates. It’s one they are expected to win, even if they are chasing. While chopping and changing squads willy-nilly can be detrimental (ref. the English cricket team), sometimes a break is as good as a complete overhaul. South Africa showed the value of consistency in selection when they persisted with Rilee Rossouw, who could not buy a run at the start of his career, but De Kock, with 41 ODIs to his name already, is by no means at risk of permanently losing his place in the team – and he will know that.
Knowing that he remains an integral part of the side is underscored by AB de Villiers’ reluctance to keep wicket. However, when it comes to putting the team first, nobody is more desperate to do so than De Villiers, and right now giving their young gun a break might be the best thing. By no means should South Africa cast De Kock aside, but a very quick change might be as good as a holiday. With the knockouts and additional pressure looming, the last thing South Africa needs is run the risk of De Kock’s confidence level being pounded further into the ground – if a so-called “smaller” team ends up getting the better of him. DM
Photo: South Africa’s Quinton De Kock (2nd L) laughs at been given out to Pakistan’s Muhammad Irfan during their Cricket World Cup match in Auckland, March 7, 2015. REUTERS/Nigel Marple