Quinton de Kock says that he intends to lead South Africa in his own “street-smart” style when he takes over as ODI captain for next month’s series against England. However, he will also take a leaf out of Faf du Plessis’ captaincy, in particular his ability to balance big egos at the highest level of professional sport.
De Kock was named as South Africa’s 50-over captain on Tuesday and appears to have been identified as the long-term successor despite independent selector Linda Zondi saying du Plessis has not officially stepped down. He says he will draw from du Plessis’ diplomacy as he begins his own leadership journey.
“What I’ve learnt from Faf is the amount of patience he has created and developed over the years with the players,” de Kock said, in his first media appearance since being named captain. “Being captain and dealing with a lot of high-profile players and guys with a lot of opinions, for him to have the patience to deal with that as a captain, it’s grown him as a person. I’ve seen it from the side, standing next to him as ‘keeper and helping him with one or two things on the field and off the field, I have learnt from him.”
But that’s as much copy-catting as de Kock would like to do. The rest of his management style will be more fluid than we have become used to from South African cricket, which tends to be methodical but not always easily adaptable.
De Kock, who is known for his intuitive batting style, has promised to bring that to his captaincy.
“There will be some sort of planning you have to do, some homework,” he said. “You always have Plan A, Plan B and if those two don’t work, I like to come up with things on the field. You have to make decisions on the go, especially in the heat of everything.
“Most of the time, I will keep it pretty street-smart – not just me but also the players. I would enjoy if the players become street-smart out there and don’t always have to go just on a certain plan. That’s when guys end up learning from the game, without them planning things. I think that helps grow people and cricketers in general.”
Asked whether his elevation to the ODI captaincy could be a precursor to him taking over the Test team, de Kock was unwilling to look that far into the future but admitted he would not say no if it was offered to him.
“I’m not too sure. There’s a lot of guys that are well prepared to be Test captain. Temba is vice-captain and he has come back and scored a lot of runs so his name is always also going to be there,” de Kock said. “It’s not up to me whether they want me to be Test captain or not, it’s entirely up to the coaches and Graeme and all those guys. I don’t think I will push for it, but if they want me to then I will do it to the best of my ability.”
Du Plessis has indicated that The Wanderers Test could be his last at home, with South Africa only due to play two more Tests in West Indies in July, before du Plessis reassesses his career after November’s T20 World Cup. Before that, du Plessis has the task of leading South Africa in a must-win match this week, in an attempt to square the series and avoid losing three rubbers in a row.
“What I am trying to do is back Faf,” de Kock said. “There is a bit of pressure, not just on him, a couple of other guys as well. I’m trying to be there, help the guys out, lighten the mood at times. It’s quite difficult when you are a player under so much pressure. When I have an opportunity to make someone feel better, or give them advice or just say, ‘life’s not so bad’ then I add my two cents or do what I can to help the guys.”
Some would argue the best thing de Kock could do to help is score runs, and he is already making big strides in that regard. He is South Africa’s leading run-scorer in the series, and 23 runs behind overall leader Ben Stokes. Those statistics suggest it’s perhaps not de Kock, but the rest of the line-up that needs to stand up, but the man himself holds high standards which he knows he has yet to meet.
“I’ve gotten out in quite soft ways a couple of times. It’s just about me trying to rectify it,” he said.
At St George’s Park, de Kock was one of several batsmen whose shot selection was questionable and working on a combination of technique and mindset has been the focus of their preparation. De Kock would advise them not to overthink things and respond in the moment.
“In the situation guys forget that we need to play the situation and not the bowler at the time. A lot of people forget about that,” he said.