Quinton de Kock believes that not being favourites to win the World Cup will give the Proteas the freedom to play their best cricket.
The Proteas have always had the ‘favourites’ tag pinned to them. This has frequently put them in a position to run the risk of labelled ‘choking’ at crucial times in the competition.
Ottis Gibson referred to the failure of the past as ‘baggage’ that needs to be left behind. For South Africa’s sake, there is a burning hope that they have left it all behind… the run-out in ’99, the Duckworth-Lewis miscalculation in 2003, the ‘quota’ debate in 2007, as well as the chokers tag that seemingly overwhelmed the Proteas in 2015.
There is a belief in the side that their young core will be key to eradicating their past.
De Kock, who has been selected as vice-captain of the Proteas, believes that they have left their skeletons in the closet and that a new mentality has spread throughout the team.
‘I am excited about the freedom. At the last World Cup we were ranked No 1 or 2 and we were one of the sides earmarked to win it,’ he said.
‘It didn’t happen, but there was always a lot of pressure on us. It is pressure we did not want to be part of.
‘This year, I am very happy not to be earmarked by anyone. We know how good we are, so we just want to come and enjoy it.
‘We have some players who will be playing in their last World Cup, and then some who are experiencing it for the first time, so we just want to have some fun.
‘I think 2015 was different to this time. Other teams are being called the favourites here and that is a blessing, to be honest.
‘Don’t get me wrong, we are here to win, but our tournament will be a bit more relaxed and that is a good thing.’
The 26-year-old is experiencing a drastic improvement in his game since his first World Cup appearance in 2015. This shift has allowed him to enjoy the pressure and not fold due to the expectations of winning.
‘I came into the team at 19 and I was quite immature,’ he added. ‘I have grown as a cricketer and as a person, and that is because of the senior guys in the group.
‘They are still learning from their mentors, who no longer play, so it is one big process of learning through the generations.
‘Now I am getting older, I really enjoy that challenge. I don’t think about winning it. It is going to be tough and you don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself because it can be horrible when you lose. It’s like the world comes down upon you.
‘The sun rises the next day, but those initial feelings are horrible if you think you have not met expectations.
‘If we take it one game at a time, then we can try to play ourselves into it. It’s a long tournament, we feel we could be here for all of it.’
De Kock has played in one World Cup in 2015. He scored 145 runs at an average of 20.71.
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