South Africa skipper Quinton de Kock has confirmed that he will not be at the helm in Test matches for the long haul. However, he is willing to lead the team till a suitable replacement is found.
The star player already leads South Africa in white-ball cricket and although director of cricket Graeme Smith had already stated that de Kock would not be overburdened, it looks like de Kock will be tasked with the responsibility in the short term.
The man in question himself said that he was not overly keen when the selectors offered him the role of Test match captaincy, but understood that it is in the best interest of the team.
“When the selectors told me the situation that we were in, I understood where they were coming from. Obviously, I didn’t accept it immediately. I did think about it and I understood, it’s just for now. For this season. It’s not a long-term thing,” de Kock said.
“It’s just till we get someone who really puts up their hand, they will take over. The guys are looking for a long-term leadership role. I won’t be doing that. There does seem a lot on my plate but I am quite happy to do it for now.”
de Kock is likely to captain the team in 16 matches this season. This includes seven Test matches, six T20Is and three ODIs. He will also keep wickets for the majority of these games, if not all.
May hand gloves to someone else in ODIs
The task of keeping wickets in Tests will remain with de Kock, but the Proteas skipper indicated that this may not be the case in the 50-over format.
“I am going to keep wicket. I wasn’t going to keep in the ODIs against England. We were going to give someone else a chance. We are looking at ways to get a lot of things off my shoulders,” he said. “But in Test cricket, I need to be there as keeper.”
South Africa is in the midst of a revamp with very few certainties in the team apart from de Kock, Dean Elgar and Faf du Plessis. Aiden Markram is likely to partner Elgar at the top. Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, Keegan Petersen and Verreynne will compete for three other spots in the top six. This is based on the assumption that de Kock will slot in at No. 7.
Comparisons with Gilchrist were rife in the early part of de Kock’s career owing to his pugnacious counter-attacking stroke-play. He has seldom had a solid foundation to work with in recent times. He has had to play a rescue act far more often than he would like. In times such as this that the one of the specialist batsmen has to put his hand up and make a statement. Any sign of leadership, especially from Elgar, Markram, Bavuma or van der Dussen is likely to be rewarded with Test match captaincy.
“We’ve got a young team. We need our younger guys to come through and learn fast so we can have a structured team. That’s what I would hope for for this season – for the new guys to come in and start scoring runs and putting up their hands,” de Kock said.
Non-cricketing issues in the limelight
England’s withdrawal from the series against South Africa owing to breaches of the bio-secure environment had cast doubt on future series set across the South African summer.
Two members of the squad had returned positive tests for Covid-19 during the England series, but the squad has since returned a full round of negative tests ahead of the Boxing Day Test match against Sri Lanka.
Another set of tests will take place on Sunday but the members have been instructed to be in quarantine in their hotel rooms till then.
“We can only go get dinner and then go back to the room, for example. And training is done in staggered sessions,” de Kock said. “It is a little bit difficult these first two or three days. Once we do our next Covid-19 tests if we all test negative, I’m sure it will go back to normal. Well, normal within the bubble.”
This will allow South African members to mingle with their squad, but they will continue to keep distance from the touring Sri Lankan party, who are staying at the same venue.
“We have been cordoned off from one side of the hotel to the other. Our boundaries are set that we have to adhere to. We won’t be in the same facilities as them. We can see them but there won’t be any damage done.”
Australia tour of South Africa on thin ice
Cricket Australia has stated that it will be keeping a close eye on how South Africa manages its upcoming series. Based on this, a final decision will be made about the team touring South Africa next year. With huge financial implications, Cricket South Africa needs to ensure that there are no further incidents in the upcoming series.
de Kock said the players are aware of the importance of the bio-bubble. “We have got that little bit of responsibility, but it’s nothing that we can’t handle. It’s just a small part we can help out in ensuring our future tours go ahead in Covid-19 times. We do the bit we can to make sure our bubble is safe.”