Kyle Verreynne can’t be ignored in a Test context any longer. His selection can ease the massive burden Quinton de Kock is being asked to carry, writes RYAN VREDE.
I wrote a month ago that De Kock needed to relinquish the gloves to Verreynne, and be given the mandate to play his natural attacking game at No 4 for the Proteas.
A lot has happened since then, all of it further entrenching my belief that this is the right way for the Proteas to go.
After director of cricket Graeme Smith initially ruled De Kock out of the running for the Proteas Test captaincy, it was recently announced that he would indeed lead the side this summer, albeit in a temporary capacity.
I believe this will hinder a generational talent and, even in the absence of other strong candidates, there needed to be a focus on freeing De Kock up from responsibility, not adding to it.
At times during the white-ball series against England he looked lost and disinterested as skipper. His form suffered and while that can’t be directly linked to the responsibility of leading a team in transition, it certainly doesn’t help.
I’ve called for De Kock to be unburdened from the white-ball captaincy, so the announcement that his leadership responsibility was being expanded into the Test arena was disappointing. That isn’t going to change, but there is now no question that he can’t be asked to lead, keep wicket and carry the weight of responsibility of being one of a few senior batsmen in the Proteas Test lineup. Not unless you want to seriously compromise his efficacy.
It isn’t that keeping and captaining can’t work. MS Dhoni and a small clutch of other keeper-captains proved it can. Every case needs to be assessed on its merit and I’d argue that this one will reveal a player (De Kock), who is, on the evidence of his white-ball showing, more likely to be inhibited by the challenge than galvanised by it.
De Kock has the talent, temperament and time (he turns 28 on Thursday) to end his career with a Test average upwards of 45. For that to happen, he must be freed from as much responsibility as possible. Picking Verreynne will aid this cause, while also giving an opportunity to an incredibly gifted young player who has kicked the Proteas’ door down through sheer weight of runs.
The 23-year-old Cobras player is in excellent form, scoring 39,85,51,72 and 97 in his last five innings in the 4-Day Domestic Series. He has built on an excellent 2019-20 red-ball campaign, during which he scored 551 runs at an average of 55.10 (two 100s, three 50s) with an impressive strike rate of 76.74. He averaged 40 in the 2018-19 season, indicating a clear pattern of year-on-year improvement.
His glove work is very good, arguably better than De Kock’s, and, given that he has modelled his game on De Kock’s, he has the ability to take the game away from opponents in a short period of time.
The Proteas are in a period of transition. Coach Mark Boucher and his team are building with a young and inexperienced Test team. They have to play the long game, despite understandable pressure to arrest their poor form, particularly in Test cricket.
Part of that must involve redefining De Kock’s role and finding room for Verreynne.