Cape Town – Quinton de Kock has experienced a personal
turnaround in run-making fortune at the Sydney Cricket Ground before ... it
seems the Proteas’ hope is for the phenomenon to occur twice in the space of
some four months.
It may be just one, additional reason why South Africa will stoically
keep their faith in the struggling wicketkeeper/batsman for Wednesday’s World
Cup quarter-final against Sri Lanka there (05:30 SA time).
Unless the Proteas are selling a great bag of red herrings
in statements during the lead-up, De Kock will be retained -- despite a
miserable run of failures at the crease in the tournament thus far -- for the
country’s quest to win a CWC knockout fixture for the very first time.
Public utterances from high-ranking squad personalities in
the last few days lean heavily toward De Kock tackling the dangerous ‘Lankans.
First and presumably most illuminatingly, captain AB de
Villiers, in a rich vein of own form with the blade, came out surprisingly
strongly against the notion that he return to the behind-the-stumps chore,
which would free up De Kock’s berth for somebody else depending on how the
Proteas want to balance their XI.
Then deputy Hashim Amla spoke of “Quinny coming good at some
Coach Russell Domingo joined the pre-game optimism over the
baby-faced talent from the Highveld Lions. He confessed: “We just sort of have
this gut feel that Quinton has got a big score around the corner.”
Domingo may well be right; it is not as though the
22-year-old, with six one-day international centuries already to his name, has
no prior track record of excellence yet in the national greens.
But there is also an understandable case for saying De
Kock’s trot at the World Cup has been so lean that perhaps the Proteas should
be taking harsher measures for a must-win fixture than backing him to the hilt
in a stubborn period of under-delivery.
Indeed, SA enthusiasts are entitled to note acidly that if a
De Kock turnaround really is around that bend Domingo mentioned, it ideally
needs to be the next one ... otherwise the team may be on a glum flight home –
again -- from cricket’s loftiest limited-overs stage every four years.
But there may also be some wisdom to not disturbing skipper
De Villiers’s present mojo as a batsman and rank-and-file fielder, and
fervently wishing that De Kock suddenly recaptures his batting touch while
continuing his competency with the ‘keeping gloves.
Part of that is probably rooted in the young top-order
stroke-player having been in a not dissimilar position on a fairly recent visit
to the very same SCG – it was at the end of the bilateral series against
Australia in late November.
De Kock entered the fifth and final ODI, admittedly with SA
already a decisive 3-1 down, having endured some cheeky suggestions among
Aussie pundits that his game had been just a little exposed in his fledgling
top-flight experience of pitch conditions there.
Going into the match on November 23, the left-hander had
registered humdrum series scores of two and four (Perth), 47 (Canberra) and 17 (Melbourne).
As if to purposefully rout the doubters, De Kock spearheaded
the Proteas’ charge to what turned out to be a so nearly successfully defended
total of 280 for six, striking 107 off 123 deliveries in an innings described
in the www.espncricinfo.com match
report by Daniel Brettig as exhibiting “poise and timing”.
Since that night, alas, he has managed only a further 57
runs in seven completed ODI innings, including six at the World Cup, and timing
– the lack of it – has been a curse, by contrast.
Once again, he goes (or rather, probably goes) into a
cricket match at Sydney’s illustrious premier venue at something of a personal
crossroads on Wednesday.
The last time, he crossed that intersection with almost
De Kock has also shown prior, pleasing “bouncebackability”
against this week’s very knockout foes, and in their own challenging
In the 2013 bilateral series in Sri Lanka, emphatically won
4-1 by the hosts, De Kock was still very much an international novice, and it
was shown in his knocks of 20, 8 and 27.
A year later, South Africa visited again and turned the
tables 2-1, this time with the player making a precious 128 in the deciding
third clash at Hambantota.
Knocks? Quinton de Kock has taken a few.
Rises from the canvas? Those haven’t been in short supply
Maybe that’s why those around him are so keen to keep him in
the mix, despite all the current question marks. *Follow
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing