Quinton de Kock’s first media conference since being appointed captain of the 50-over team went according to script – if anyone could write one for this swashbuckling prodigy who would rather be fishing, writes DANIEL GALLAN.
He was dismissively short when asked if he would relinquish the gloves to ease the load. ‘No’, was his curt reply. He rambled a little when speaking about his style of captaincy. Words such as aloof, instinctive and haphazard were not said, but implied.
He paid respects to Faf du Plessis’ patience and said he had learned from the outgoing skipper standing next to him at first slip. He offered a bemusing take on South Africa’s current form with the bat.
‘Everyone is batting well,’ he said, evidently living in a different realm to the rest of us. ‘I think the guy’s confidence is right up there.’
At times there were laughs and giggles from journalists but everyone in the room hung on De Kock’s every word. He may not be articulate, or even very intelligent in the narrow sense of the word, but few have a more astute cricket mind.
The content of what he said was almost irrelevant as we’ll judge him by his actions on the field. Instead, what should be a worry for Cricket South Africa, and all interested parties, is the long, exacerbated sigh De Kock let out once his duties were done.
The conference lasted around 13 minutes but De Kock looked shattered. This is a man who has the stamina to crouch and squat in the sun for two days, but could barely make it through a small conversation without needing a lie-down.
Perhaps it was nerves. Even De Kock must feel them. Perhaps it was the glare of the cameras or the realisation that, despite his apparent indifference to this elevated position, this is a landmark moment in his career.
The likely explanation is that he does not enjoy this side of the gig. Few elite cricketers want to sit down and explain to overweight hacks (present company included) about their methods with bat or ball. Would any of us feel as emboldened to critique the work of Leonardo da Vinci or Marie Curie with as much confidence as we do with the Proteas?
But whether he likes this part of the job or not, it is a requirement of South Africa’s captain. So is appreciating the subtleties of the transformation narrative. And glad-handing with corporate sponsors. And sitting through team selection meetings. And explaining to people who think they know – but really don’t – why a certain fast bowler didn’t take the new ball and why another one did.
This is not to say that De Kock won’t grow into the role or that he is unable to appreciate all that comes with it. He has experience in two T20s and two ODIs as skipper and is a master tactician.
A few morale-boosting wins may stir a side of De Kock he never thought – or rather, we never thought – was there. He may become the greatest leader of men this cricket team has ever seen, carrying the Proteas to a first-ever 50-over World Cup triumph and immortalised in the pantheon of legendary captains in the game.
But, what if he doesn’t? What if he misses his place on the stage just a little off centre? What if the bright glow of leadership starts to singe and his carefree mind becomes tangled with things he never used to consider?
There was confusion when he was asked if Du Plessis had retired or been sacked. He didn’t know. Only the intervention of South Africa’s media manager helped clear things up, but even her response required deciphering.
Du Plessis already said that there is a long-term plan to hand over power. De Kock has been given a free swing in a 50-over series a year after a World Cup his opposition won. The stakes are as low as they can be in international cricket.
However De Kock fares, he will do things his own way. What he needs is patience, and the acceptance that there has never been a captain of the Proteas quite like him.