With Quinny out the running, who captains Proteas Test side?

2020-04-17 20:27
Aiden Markram (Getty)
Aiden Markram (Getty)

While Graeme Smith was confirmed as Cricket South Africa's (CSA) full-time Director of Cricket, the more surprising news on Friday was that Quinton de Kock has been ruled out of the running to replace Faf du Plessis as Proteas Test captain. 

It is a decision that makes complete sense given that De Kock is already the captain, wicketkeeper and his side's best batsman in both limited overs formats, but even so he was still considered the frontrunner for the Test captaincy after Du Plessis announced in February that he would no longer be performing the role. 

While T20 cricket is the obvious priority right now for the Proteas with this year's T20 World Cup in Australia scheduled for October, it could be eight months before they play any Test cricket again. A two-Test tour for the West Indies is set for July, but with the ongoing global lockdown because of the coronavirus, that is seeming less likely to materialise with each passing day. 

It means that, at the very least, Smith and the Proteas leadership have time to mull over who the Test captain should be before they host Sri Lanka over the next festive season.

At this stage, from the outside looking in, it looks like there are four realistic options: Aiden Markram, Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen and Dean Elgar

Elgar has captained the Proteas twice in Test cricket and at 32 he still has years ahead of him, and while he may not seem the likeliest option on the surface, a look at the complications surrounding the other options significantly enhances his chances.  

Markram has been tipped for leadership since his youth when he captained the SA U-19s to a World Cup win in 2014. For a long time, he was considered the natural successor to Du Plessis. It is no longer that straightforward, though, given his lack of form and absence through injury. 

Markram has not delivered on the hype that has accompanied him since his early days and his Test average has dropped from around 50 to just 38.48 in a little over a year. A hand injury in India last October and then a finger injury in the Boxing Day Test against England cut short his participation in both of those series, and in his absence, Pieter Malan was given an opportunity. 

While there is no doubt that the Proteas need Markram moving forward, he perhaps no longer commands a place at the top of the order as he used to.

I have always believed that Markram would eventually move down the Test batting order to No 4, and maybe that time has come, but South Africa need him to be a run machine more than they need him to be a captain right now. Scoring runs and returning to form should be the 25-year-old's only priority at present, and that might convince the powers that be to look elsewhere for their captain. 

Enter Bavuma. 

A naturally level-headed, thoughtful cricketer, Bavuma has found an inner confidence of late and with 40 Test matches to his name, he has the experience. A respected captain at franchise level, Bavuma also comes with leadership credentials. 

The problem, though, has always been the run-scoring return and he average of just 30.75 saw him dropped from the side at the start of the England series. One thing that Bavuma does have is fight, something he showed in working his way back into the side four the fourth and final Test, and that is absolutely a quality that will be required from a Mark Boucher captain. 

As is the case with Markram, though, Bavuma could find himself in a place where weight of runs is prioritised, and that again could result in the leadership going in a different direction. 

Perhaps the dark horse in this race is Van der Dussen, who has been largely impressive ever since he first pulled on a Proteas jumper, regardless of the format. A relative latecomer to the international stage, Van der Dussen knocked the door down at domestic level for years before being given his opportunity. 

He has not looked back, and his ODI average of 70.70 after 21 caps shows just how well he has adjusted to international cricket. 

More impressive to some, though, is Van der Dussen's maturity and composure on and off the field. During last year's World Cup in England, Du Plessis identified Van der Dussen as a man who could potentially captain the Proteas in the future and there are many in South African cricket's inner circles who agree. 

He may only have played four Test matches to date, but Smith will know better than anyone that number of caps need not be a factor. Now 31, Van der Dussen knows his game better than ever and in a period of struggle and then renewal, he has looked more at home than most in Proteas colours. 

Whichever way Smith and Boucher decide to go, they have the time to make sure they get this one right, and they need to if they are to place the Test side in good hands in the years to come. 

* Who do you think the next captain of the Proteas Test side should be? Let @LloydBurnard and @Sport24news know on Twitter …


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