Cricket: Dropping Quinton de Kock was the Proteas’ best option

Cricket: Dropping Quinton de Kock was the Proteas’ best option

Quinton de Kock has been here before. Stuck in the crease, struggling for runs and looking out of his depth, the youngster has a few months to try and get back to his best as South Africa prepare for testing fixtures against India and England. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

It’s been over three years since a freak accident ended Mark Boucher’s career. Since then, the wicketkeeper spot in the South African Test side has been as much of a talking point as Dale Steyn’s latest choice of headgear. When Boucher was forced into retirement as South Africa climbed to the summit of the Test rankings, Thami Tsolekile looked set to finally get his chance to make an impact at international level. That never happened. Instead, AB de Villiers took over the gloves, despite having previously said back troubles would make it difficult for him to do so.

De Villiers, as with everything else he does, did a fine job. But it was clear that he was only ever going to be a stop-gap solution. On the domestic circuit in the 2012-13 season, Quinton de Kock’s meteoric rise was starting. The cherub-faced youngster played six matches for the Lions, scoring 559 runs at an average of 46.58. The caveat to that statistic being, of course, that he didn’t keep in all of those games, Tsolekile did. It wasn’t until midway through the season that De Kock took over the gloves and those in the know mumbled to themselves: “He’s next.”

De Kock has made his limited overs debut in both Twenty20s and one-day internationals by the time the 2012-13 season was over, taking the gloves on both occasions. The start to his international career was unremarkable and although he batted out of his preferred spot at the top of the order, there was enough evidence to suggest that he had buckets of talent. His talent had been evident at age group level and although some coaches had suggested he did not work hard enough or concentrate enough, De Kock had enough natural ability to scrape by.

But natural ability only takes you so far and by the time South Africa returned from their tour to Sri Lanka, De Kock was sent back to square one. He had looked lost and out of sorts on the turning tracks of the subcontinent. By now, De Kock had realised that he cannot get by on talent alone. Following the return from Sri Lanka, De Kock dug in his heels and worked hour after hours, to the point where Lions coach Geoff Toyana, had to beg him to stop.

Soon, the hard work paid off and he returned to international cricket with a bang. His limited overs prowess was impressive and he was steadily being groomed for a Test berth. In 2014, as South Africa’s experiment with a lower order all-rounder came to an end, De Kock made his debut.

In his second Test, he scored a half century and although he looked far from entirely convincing at Test level, he looked like he would get by. South African selectors would have breathed a sigh of relief: they had solved one piece of the merry-go-round transitional puzzle that is likely to envelop the team for the next few months. But Mother Cricket has plans of her own and in his fifth Test, De Kock tore his ankle ligaments during a kickabout on the Centurion outfield. With a World Cup to come, De Kock’s injury was watched with a beady eye. He recovered in time, but since his return, he has looked very much like the lost cherub-faced youngster he was in Sri Lanka. Only this time, his struggles might not be down to his work ethic.

De Kock is struggling technically, that cannot be denied. There is no lack of form issues here, just a lack of application. Part of those struggles might be down to the lack of game time. Aside from the World Cup, where he contributed little, De Kock has not played any long-form cricket. While he did feature in the limited overs matches against Bangladesh, he has not had time to get into the rhythm of Tests. Even with the cricket he has played, some of the rehab routines that he has gone through might have influenced his current approach. As a left-handed player, he would often place weight on his left foot when going for more aggressive shots, the foot which was injured. Lack of footwork is exactly what has troubled De Kock in recent times and part of that might be down to the conditioning throughout rehab. Time out in the middle and in the nets is likely to be the only solution.

It’s a good thing, then, that De Kock has been dumped from the Test team for South Africa’s second Test against Bangladesh. Dane Vilas will assume the gloves in the interim while De Kock is packaged off for South Africa’s A-team tour in India in the hope that he gets back to his best ahead of a tough series away against India and at home against England. DM

Photo: South Africa’s Quinton de Kock celebrates reaching fifty runs during the Cricket World Cup quarter-final match against Sri Lanka at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) March 18, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Reed


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