Cape Town – Is the place of Quinton de
Kock, albeit a player hardly out of touch, suddenly the most endangered of
South Africa’s Twenty20 top-order batting specialists?
The Proteas have an ongoing, hotly-debated
issue in their camp over whether – though many critics consider it a no-brainer
– they feel they can accommodate all of De Kock, captain Faf du Plessis, AB de
Villiers and Hashim Amla in the same XI at the game’s most condensed level.
It will be continuing to trouble the minds
of their brains trust as the national side knuckle down to early preparation in
India for their role in the ICC World Twenty, already underway in its
qualifying phase for minnow nations.
Some of them feel that the quartet are
fighting only for the top three positions, and that different customers must be
stationed in the middle order rather than one of these big-name players shifting
down to No 4.
That raises the question: if the status quo
is doggedly, defiantly stuck to, who is the unlucky man to miss out at the
outset (against England next Friday) of SA’s tournament schedule?
The Proteas rested arguably the main
stroke-playing ace up their sleeves, De Villiers, for the surrendered final
match of the mini-series against Australia at PPC Newlands, but he is expected
to return – and most likely to one of the opening berths – at the WT20.
Du Plessis loves operating at No 3, where
he has batted in all but three of his 31 T20 innings for South Africa and he is
also the country’s most consistently prolific performer in this arena, boasting
a stellar average of 39.80 – a fraction better even than his ODI average of
39.78 – and strike rate of 135.
Meanwhile Amla, not too long ago expected
to be odd man out in the top-three conundrum, has spent the last two personal
outings pretty much making himself undroppable, with successive career-best
scores at the top of the order of 69 not out against England and then an
unusually flamboyant unbeaten 97 against the
Aussies in the Cape Town defeat.
So does all this spell bad news for the
23-year-old De Kock, then?
The left-hander has done little wrong of
late, and boasts two fluent knocks on the trot of his own – 44 against
Australia off 28 balls at the Wanderers and then a particularly quick-fire 25
off 13 at Newlands.
Those hardly shout “drop me”, or so you
But De Kock has another string to his bow,
and this is his nicely developing wicketkeeping; he is a top-notch gloveman
standing back to the seamers even if his ‘keeping to box-of-tricks,
unpredictable spinners like Imran Tahir perhaps remains a work in progress.
If you ditch De Kock, it means a recall to
the chore behind the stumps for De Villiers, who supposedly is more prepared to
keep wicket at T20 level than in the other two major formats for the Proteas.
But by asking the near-veteran to perform
that task, you also rob the national team of one of its speediest and most
mercurial outfielders; he and former schoolmate Du Plessis are priceless setters
of standards in that regard, even if the Proteas have a few other good ‘uns in
A personal belief is that De Kock must keep
his place, and also take care of the wicketkeeping.
And yes, if that means room simply must be
found in the team for all four upfront batting aces, you won’t hear any
objections from this corner.
Here’s an extra thought: if the more senior
Amla, De Villiers and Du Plessis are steadfast in their wishes to be in the top
three – Amla’s style is surely suited only to opening – what price the
talented, naturally attacking De Kock making a decent fist of No 4, if it has
to come to that?
He has occupied that berth once in T20
internationals, and it was on his (winning) debut against New Zealand at
Kingsmead in December 2012: he made a boundary-studded 28 not out off 23
deliveries, just for the record …
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing