There’s room for both Quiton de Kock and Kyle Verreynne in the Test squad if you reconsider the former’s role, writes Ryan Vrede.
Highly competent wicketkeeper/batsmen don’t populate the cricketing landscape – men with equally high measures of glovework and batting prowess. So when they emerge, you have to celebrate them and give their gifts room to soar.
At present, the Proteas have one of the game’s best in De Kock. Now there is also an emerging talent in Verreynne, who is forcing the Proteas’ Test selectors to sit up and take notice.
The 23-year-old Cobras player is in excellent form, scoring 39,85,51 and 72 in his last four innings in the 4 Day Franchise Series. He has built on an excellent 2019/20 red-ball campaign, which saw him score 551 runs at an average of 55.10 ( two 100s, three 50s) at an impressive strike rate of 76.74. He averaged 40 in the 2018/19 season, indicating a clear pattern of year-on-year improvement.
It is not only the quantity of runs this season, but the circumstances under which he scored them. The Cobras’ batsman have been dreadfully inconsistent in the opening two rounds, and Verreynne has often been the only batsman to offer the level of resistance required. This speaks to a temperament that allows his talent to flourish. This, he says, is due in large part to conversations he has had with Hashim Amla, cricket’s zen master.
There is no question now that Verreynne – who made is white ball debut for the Proteas earlier this year – is being considered for a Test spot. He isn’t in direct competition for De Kock either. The side can accommodate both.
Last year De Kock told SA Cricket Magazine: ‘My goal has never been to retire with a high average, or to be recognised on the rankings list. May goal is to be an impact player. I want to hit the ball hard and win games and tournaments for my country.’
I believe the Proteas selectors have to be bold going into the England series by relieving De Kock of his wicketkeeping duties and unleashing him as an impact player at No.4.
The Proteas’ batting lineup sorely misses the type of top order batsman that can change the complexion of the game in a session. De Kock needs to be given a mandate to be that player and the freedom to execute that mandate.
In Verreynne you lose nothing from a wicketkeeping perspective. He is technically sound and has the potential to become even better. You also gain an attack-minded batsman who would be an asset at No.6.
Solve the allrounder conundrum at No.7 in light of Vernon Philander’s retirement and suddenly the Test batting line-up has an imposing presence they’ve lacked for some time.
Verreynne recently told ESPNCricinfo: ‘Ashwell [Prince – Cobras coach] was the one who told me if I want to play for South Africa, I would have to be able to make sure I can get picked purely as a batsman.’
Prince was right in the sense that only a sheer weight of runs would open the door for him in a Test context, because De Kock isn’t in danger of being dropped. But I disagree that Verreynne is destined to play as a specialist batsman.
That role should go to De Kock.