Cricket South Africa is taking an encouraging long-term approach by locking down Graeme Smith and easing Quinton de Kock’s workload, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Will we see any form of cricket in the coming months? Countries like South Africa are in lockdown, and while it’s been said that sport will resume behind closed doors at some stage, it remains to be seen if travels restrictions will be lifted and tours and big tournaments will go ahead as planned.
The 2019-20 season was always going to be a period of transition for the Proteas. Mark Boucher was officially appointed as head coach last December. Smith was brought in as the director of cricket – at that stage on a temporary basis. Both made it clear that it would take some time to rebuild the South African side across all three formats.
One would expect that period of transition to extend well into the 2020-21 season. The Proteas built up some momentum in the limited-overs fixtures against England and Australia – and Boucher certainly used that opportunity to experiment with a number of new players and combinations. The series against India would have been a further test of the burgeoning team’s abilities. Unfortunately that tour was cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The wheels of progress have continued to turn behind the scenes, though. It’s been confirmed that Smith has agreed to a two-year contract and will be heavily involved in navigating the team through these challenging times.
Smith – as a former Proteas captain who thrived in difficult situations – is the ideal man for the job. It’s encouraging to see Cricket South Africa looking to the future and locking down a man with the potential to take the Proteas back to the top.
Confirmation that Quinton de Kock will not be burdened with the Test captaincy is yet another encouraging sign. It shows that Smith and Boucher are looking ahead with regards to the team’s leadership and De Kock’s role as a batsman.
It will be interesting to see who the Proteas back as their skipper when the travel restrictions are lifted and Test cricket resumes. Dean Elgar, Temba Bavuma and Aiden Markram have all been mentioned as candidates.
Smith said that the selectors may take a gamble and back a left-field candidate. Nearly two decades ago, Smith – at the age of 22 – was given the responsibility. He went on to become one of the finest Test captains of all time.
Faf du Plessis was in his early 30s when he succeeded AB de Villiers as Test captain in 2016. For this reason, Elgar’s age (32) shouldn’t count against him. He certainly has the combative mindset – as seen by his batting exploits over the years – and the experience to be a success in that role.
Are the selectors keen on someone younger, though, who could potentially lead the side for a lengthy period of time as Smith did between 2003 and 2014? Markram and Bavuma have been mentioned as candidates, but will need to establish themselves as first-choice selections.
It was refreshing to see Smith confirming that the Proteas don’t have a definitive answer. It’s the kind of honesty and transparency that’s been lacking in South Africa cricket over the past few years.
There will be further experimentation with regard to the leadership when Test cricket resumes. Several candidates may receive an opportunity to stake a claim for a long-term stint as skipper.
It’s also good to hear that De Kock is being encouraged to play his natural game. Like some of the great batsmen of the past, De Kock has the ability to dominate an attack and change the momentum of a Test in the space of a session.
De Kock will be a key batsmen for South Africa going forward and his strengths should be harnessed rather than repressed.