• Turning the tables

    Quinton de Kock will have a shot at redemption as well as a world record when he takes guard against the Sri Lankan spinners this Sunday.

    South Africa’s bright young thing comes into this series having scored a century in each of his past three innings. De Kock already shares the world record for the most consecutive ODI tons with Zaheer Abbas, Saeed Anwar, Herschelle Gibbs, and AB de Villiers, although by the end of Sunday’s match in Colombo, he may well have this record all to himself.

    It would mark a special feat by a special talent. It would also signify a comeback of sorts, as the last time De Kock was in Sri Lanka with the Proteas in July 2013, he was anything but successful and a far cry from the more rounded batsman he is today.

    De Kock is not the type to allow a few disappointing innings to hamper his swagger. Indeed, after that ODI series, in which he scored 20, 8, and 27, as well as a forgettable T20I series that witnessed contributions of 5, 19, and 16, De Kock didn’t seem overly concerned.

    It left his ODI average at a mediocre 18.85, but De Kock and his coaches felt that those failures were down to shot selection rather any technical weakness against the spinners. This despite the fact that the Sri Lankan slow bowlers had dismissed De Kock in four of the six matches played across the two limited over series.

    De Kock proved a point in the subsequent series against Pakistan, where he clouted the opposition spinners to all corners. Then there were the three terrific displays against India, in which he was absolutely dominant. Those performances have elevated his ODI average to 46.31.

    But a return to Sri Lanka will present another test for a player who is not yet the finished article. How much has he learned since that last tour to Sri Lanka, and just how much will the Proteas depend on De Kock to succeed?

    He was very much the greenhorn on the last tour to this part of the world. But now that long-time opener Graeme Smith has hung up his spikes, and with Russell Domingo keeping one eye on the 2015 World Cup, surely it’s time for the Proteas to start demanding more from De Kock.

    Over the past few seasons, the South African ODI side has relied too heavily on De Villiers. Those who would doubt the assertion need only look at the contrasting record of the player and the team.

    De Villiers is the top-ranked batsman in the world, while his team languishes in fourth place on the ICC rankings. De Villiers’ batting has been what’s good about the Proteas ODI side in recent years, but too often the good work has been undone by a collective failure to contribute.

    The series against India this past December offered some hope in this regard. De Kock’s massive contributions in the first two matches propelled the Proteas to scores of 358 and 280 respectively. South Africa went on to win both games and clinch the series.

    The conditions will be very different in Sri Lanka, and so may the situation. De Kock scored each of those centuries against India in the first innings. The pressure will be greater when South Africa are chasing a target, and it’s in that scenario where De Kock must stand up and be counted.

    De Kock gave South Africa a reason to celebrate in the series against India, but in doing so, he also created an expectation. While he may fall short of his four-century ambition this Sunday, it’s more important that he masters the spinners and contributes regularly to steer South Africa to a series win. This will reveal how much he’s improved over the past 12 months.