Quinton de Kock ready for three-pronged role as South Africa begin ODI rebuild

Quinton de Kock will walk into his new role as South Africa’s ODI captain with the treble responsibility of leading the side, opening the batting and keeping wicket and insists he wants to continue doing all three.

Despite the presence of wicketkeeper/batsman Kyle Verreynne in the squad for the England series, de Kock said he “most definitely” wants to stay behind the stumps.

“It [keeping wicket] is the one thing that helps me with my captaincy and my batting. It’s key for me to hang on to the gloves for as long as I can,” de Kock said, playing down concerns that he will be overloaded. “You guys think it sounds like a lot of work. I’ve been doing it for quite a while now so it becomes second nature. Now with the captaincy, it adds a bit more responsibility to me, which I enjoy. I think I am going to hang on with the keeping and the batting for a while.”

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De Kock’s only previous experience in charge of South Africa was last September when he took the team through a T20 series in India, which they drew 1-1. There, de Kock realised how much he enjoys having a bigger role to play: “I had a short stint and felt that extra responsibility was good for me,” he said.

Faf du Plessis was rested for that rubber but still remains in charge of the shortest format. There is speculation de Kock could succeed him, though that may only happen after the T20 World Cup. For now, de Kock’s focus is the ODI team, which he is set to lead until the 2023 World Cup at least.

And after their worst-ever World Cup performance in 2019, South Africa have already begun planning for the next event.

“We are in a rebuilding stage in the 50-over format,” de Kock said. “We are looking forward to the next World Cup and we are at a stage where we are looking for youngsters to come through, and to give them the best opportunities we can, and hopefully help them grow as cricketers and be great prospects for us in future.”

The current squad includes four uncapped players who are available for selection – Sisanda Magala is also in the group but has not passed a fitness test – an inexperienced attack that will be spearheaded by Lungi Ngidi and a new-look line-up with changes from the top, down. Most notably, de Kock will have a new opening partner after Hashim Amla’s retirement in the winter, ending one of South Africa’s most prolific opening partnerships.

But de Kock is not too concerned: he sees a lot of Amla in his new partner, Reeza Hendricks, whom he has played with for several seasons domestically, and expects the runs to flow freely as well.

“Reeza and Hash are very similar people – very cool, calm, collected – so it’s going to be pretty much batting like with Hash anyway,” de Kock said. “Me and Reeza have a great understanding. We’ve played a lot of cricket together with each other. I’m sure we will do well together. Reeza reads situations really well and he is very cool-headed. Pressure is not really a worry to him, at least that’s how he makes it seem. And he just really looks good when he bats. We know when Reeza really gets going he plays proper cricket shots and it’s hard to stop him so hopefully he comes off like that.”

“There is a lot of time to give a lot of opportunities but for now, it’s important for us as a team that we just get a series win”

Quinton de Kock

That leaves the positions of Janneman Malan, an opener who finished second in the Mzansi Super League run charts and Temba Bavuma, who scored a century opening the batting on ODI debut, uncertain but South Africa have plenty of time to find ways to fit them in. Expect experimentation from them in this format in the coming months, with the World Cup still three years away; but not too much of it in this series, where there is something of a win-at-all-costs mindset to try and recover from what has been a summer of discontent.

“We just want to win the series for now,” de Kock said. “There is a lot of time to give a lot of opportunities but for now, it’s important for us as a team that we just get a series win. That’s more important at the moment for the morale of the team. In the future, we will be giving more opportunities when we decide its best for the team.”

Despite a complete overhaul to team management and big changes at administrative level, South Africa have had a poor start to the home season and lost the Test series to England 3-1. At the same time, talk of a talent drain has intensified with David Bedingham and Farhaan Behardien becoming the latest in a long list of potential and experience professionals to leave the country.

However, the UK’s departure from the European Union could change things, with Kolpak deals set to cease at the end of the year. That would mean South Africa could tap into some of their resources from abroad, something that acting director of cricket Graeme Smith and du Plessis both support. De Kock has joined the chorus echoing hope that some of those who left, may return.

“I’ve never been offered a Kolpak. It’s people’s opinion at their time of their career,” he said. “People decide when they need to move on. If we, as leadership of the team, can find ways to lessen or control it better, that would be great. I think we are working on it, slowly but surely. It’s never going to change overnight.

“I don’t think a lot of the deals are signed because a guy has just thought about it overnight. I think it’s a process before signing it. I’m not too sure how we are going to stop it – hopefully some of the guys from CSA are on top of it and working hard on it.”

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