Cape Town – At the still relatively tender age of 24,
Quinton de Kock has played 128 international matches across the formats for
South Africa … but almost extraordinarily none yet in the traditional home of
So how the big winner at the weekend’s annual CSA Awards
banquet fares in his maiden top-flight experience of those near-unique
conditions over the next three months may well prove pivotal to the Proteas’
success or failure.
They leave on Tuesday for what amounts to a fairly
old-fashioned, genuinely lengthy stint in the United Kingdom, taking in – in
this order – a three-match ODI series against England, the multinational ICC
Champions Trophy, and then three Twenty20 internationals and four Tests back
against the host nation before finally returning home in mid-August.
De Kock should depart for the northern hemisphere in
especially good mental fettle after his monopoly of the major laurels at the
glitzy function, including Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year and
both Test and ODI Player of the Year.
Not the most natural of public speakers or especially
comfortable in the broad media limelight, he is one of those cricketers who
pleasingly lets his game do the talking – and he certainly had a sublime year
both as batsman and wicketkeeper for the national cause.
A consistently fast and heavy-scoring factor at the top of
the order in ODIs and so often stabiliser or momentum-shifter from his No 7
berth in the Test line-up, it is little wonder that the young phenomenon
currently occupies sixth spot – and may well continue to climb – in the
respective individual global batting rankings for both formats.
He has proved (often and then some) his ability to adapt to
the various, contrasting environments across the cricketing world, again both
with the blade and in terms of how he copes with the gloves.
But it is a timely development that he embarks now on a
first-time major experience of England, in what really is a red-letter mission
for the player and the increasingly youthful, fearless – at least to now -- and
ambitious squad he represents.
De Kock was still a teenager making his way in domestic
cricket when South Africa last undertook a major tour of that country back in
2012, still under the leadership at Test level of Graeme Smith and with Gary
Kirsten as coach.
They won the all-important Test series 2-0 to simultaneously
assume the crown of No 1-ranked side in the format.
So it is in the interim period, and in just about every
other major cricket-playing country, that De Kock has established himself as a
genuine bums-on-seats player worldwide.
His reasonably glaring lack of exposure to fickle English
conditions, however, is magnified by the fact that he one of relatively few key
batsmen in the Test XI, for example, not to have yet had even a spell with a
Just for example, Dean Elgar has been piling up a promising
tally of runs in an early-season spell with Somerset, and slightly embattled
opening partner Stephen Cook also picked up form quite tidily after a slow
start in Durham colours.
Nevertheless, the usually fast-acclimatising De Kock has
already demonstrated in other countries sporting near English-like cool,
seaming conditions that he cuts it in such circumstances despite his vastly
differing Highveld roots.
Still pretty fresh in many Proteas fans’ memories will be
the Johannesburg-born left-hander’s smooth switch, during the triumphant Test
series in Australia last season, from the warmth of Perth to deep-southern,
chilly, damp Hobart, where his own century and life-restoring sixth-wicket
partnership of 144 with Temba Bavuma played a huge role in securing the
three-Test series with a game to spare.
De Kock then only underlined his ability to prosper on
pitches where the ball traditionally jags around on the later trek to New
Zealand, where he scored 91 in Wellington and 90 in Hamilton during another
The other thing to remember is that when the sun shines and
temperatures are also kind on those shores, the ball can suddenly go through
gun-barrel straight and conditions become a near-paradise for batting,
rendering tight technique against the moving ball relatively unrequired at
Still, actually getting big ‘uns for South Africa at some of
England’s dripping-in-tradition venues must be a goal De Kock hugely aspires
to, considering how long it has taken for the opportunity to come about.
He will not be shy of chances to take guard there between
now and August …
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