Faf du Plessis remains the Proteas skipper, surviving a leadership clear-out that claimed most of the coaching staff, but his position is still under threat.
The 35-year-old has sent mixed messages about his intentions, declaring he remains hungry to lead the side while also urging South African cricket to prepare for his absence.
It seems likely that Du Plessis will call time on his international career after the T20 World Cup later this year, but that begs the question, who will succeed him as Test skipper?
- Quinton de Kock
In the case of De Kock, the best candidate may not be best suited to the role. The Proteas have experience handing the captaincy to the wrong man in their desire to appoint someone who could comfortably command a position in the playing XI.
Wicketkeepers are ideally placed to lead the team on the field, and De Kock’s batting strengths means his name is often the first on the team sheet.
Off the field, De Kock doesn’t have the charm and charisma of Du Plessis, but the focus should be on success on the field, not talking a good game at media conferences.
Taking on the captaincy might allow De Kock to retain the gloves, and his position at six in the batting order despite pressure on him to play as a specialist batsman.
- Temba Bavuma
Bavuma has some leadership experience, but needs runs in the first-class game to force his way back into the Proteas set-up.
Proteas assistant team director Enoch Nkwe has backed the Lions batsman to take over from Du Plessis, though.
‘Having worked with him in the last year and a half, he has got the qualities, there’s no question around that. I wouldn’t be surprised if, after Faf, he takes over. That will be great for South African cricket,’ Nkwe said ahead of this week’s third Test against England.
‘I know that, having spoken to him recently, he is someone that actually looks forward to getting an opportunity. He is going to do everything in his power to make sure that when the next opportunity comes he is ready for it.
‘He wants to be in this environment, and hopefully in the future, he performs well enough, and he can lead the team because I know having worked with him, he is a strong leader, very smart and he is able to lead a massive group to greater heights.’
- Kagiso Rabada
Rabada has both experience and youth on his side in the race to be the next Test skipper.
In the cons column, Rabada is a fast bowler – a breed of player rarely entrusted with the captaincy.
There are also questions about Rabada’s self-control. As a strike bowler playing on the ragged edge, so to speak, is where you want to be. But as skipper, you need to be calm and in control.
- Aiden Markram
Markam has been earmarked for leadership and has already captained South Africa in white-ball cricket.
He led the South African U19 side to World Cup glory in 2014 and has been given responsibilities at his franchise, the Titans, over multiple strong candidates to lead.
Markram has a close working relationship with head coach Mark Boucher but, like Bavuma, he needs to score runs to get back into the team.
He could slide into the team as a middle-order batsman instead of an opener, which could suit his game a little better than taking on the new ball.
- Rassie van der Dussen
Van der Dussen hasn’t been in the set-up for very long, but the late bloomer has shown the maturity prized in leadership roles.
He has the potential to be the Proteas’ middle-order rock. The practice of making the best batsman in the team skipper does need examining, especially after the failed tenure as skipper of Hashim Amla.
Van der Dussen may be a long shot given that there are experienced players such as Dean Elgar and De Kock knocking around in the team, but he has the calm maturity a Test skipper needs and is a resilient and determined cricketer.
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