Kyle Verreynne’s emergence as a top wicketkeeper-batsman over the last couple of seasons could free up Quinton de Kock to move up the order in the Proteas lineup during the England tour.
We’re all hoping that Cricket South Africa’s issues will soon take a back seat and that the Proteas can start preparing for their blockbuster Test series against England. We’re actually hoping that the cricket will distract us from all shenanigans we have witnessed over the last month.
But with two weeks to go before the start of the series, we still don’t know for sure who is going to be in charge of the team, although it seems like Enoch Nkwe is going to continue in the role of team director.
If this is the case, then Nkwe is probably already hard at work trying to prepare for the Proteas’ second series in the Test Championship, following their 3-0 defeat in India a few months ago. The fact that CSA is stalling makes me nervous, though.
How can it be so hard to announce a management team? It’s the sort of indecision that makes me wonder if they really have decided on a coach, or are they waiting to nail down Graeme Smith as director of cricket to make that choice. Either way, time is running out.
A big issue for Nkwe or whoever is going to lead in the team against England is to sort out their batting in Test cricket.
The Proteas have lost their last five Tests, and have won only three of their last 10 matches. This includes a home 2-0 series defeat by Sri Lanka, where the Proteas batting ills were highlighted before another poor display in India.
The Proteas also struggled with the bat in their 3-0 win series win over Pakistan last summer, but they were bailed out by the fact that the visitors’ efforts with the willow were even more diabolical.
The incumbents in the middle order, Theunis de Bruyn and Temba Bavuma, have struggled to fill the void left by AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla. De Bruyn averages less than 20 runs after 12 Test matches, while Bavuma’s one and only Test century in 39 games came four years ago when England last toured these shores.
Zubayr Hamza played in the third Test against India and was impressive with a good-looking half-century. He should get the nod at No 3 for the Boxing Day Test at Centurion, which means that there could essentially only be one spot left for either Bavuma or De Bruyn in the lineup, especially as the Proteas could decide to play an extra all-rounder after deploying two spinners in the Tests against India.
But I feel both needs to miss out and make way for Cobras wicketkeeper-batsman Kyle Verreynne, who is not only enjoying a rich vein of form with the bat, but may also be key for the Proteas to actually bat in a position where he can have a lot more influence on the game.
Quinton de Kock has been the Proteas’ best batsman over the last year, but his talents are being wasted at No 7. Yes, he has scored a lot of runs shepherding the tail and scoring quickfire centuries in that position, but it doesn’t help when he comes in at five down for absolutely nothing.
Coming in at Nos 4 or 5, De Kock will have the chance to build a big knock, before taking the game to the opposition with his extraordinary stroke play. At No 7, coming in when the team is under pressure, he essentially needs to play a game where he needs to get quick runs before the team is bowled out cheaply. While in the middle order he can play himself in, before chasing double centuries.
Verreynne will also relieve him of the keeping duties, which will give De Kock more opportunities to focus on his batting. But you also don’t lose anything at No 7, as you get a kid who averages over 50 in domestic cricket. It also helps that he is in good form, having scored two centuries so far this season.
Verreynne has also showed a lot of bottle during his young career, scoring a List A century for the Cobras last season to help them chase down a big score against the Knights. He also played some top cameos for the Paarl Rocks over the last couple of weeks to help them reach the final of the Mzansi Super League.
One of De Bruyn and Bavuma may well still get a gig opening the batting if Aiden Markram isn’t fit for the first Test, but the time has come for De Kock to take up the mantle as South Africa’s best player and bat at four, while handing over the gloves to the talented Verreynne.