Decisive action is needed to arrest Quinton de Kock’s slump. Either he must be freed of the captaincy immediately, or he must be dropped, argues SA Cricket magazine editor RYAN VREDE.
Time is up on the De Kock captaincy experiment. He doesn’t want the job; he has said as much. Now it’s showing.
The manner of his dismissal in Karachi reflects how he feels about the responsibility that has been thrust on him. Yes, he has always (and should remain) an aggressive batsman. But he has never been a careless one.
The heave to the leg-side boundary was designed to, at best, clear the ropes; at worst, shoot briskly to the boundary. Instead he toed it to the midwicket fielder. It would be comical if it wasn’t deeply saddening. It is also all too familiar an occurrence recently. I can’t remember the last time a bowler earned De Kock’s wicket.
His dismissal on day one showed a complete lack of appreciation for the match situation. The Proteas had just lost their most experienced batsman, Faf du Plessis. De Kock and Dean Elgar were key to the Proteas achieving the big first-innings score the team had prioritised in their planning for this tour. Instead, De Kock surrendered to his instinct. It was disheartening and infuriating in equal measure.
De Kock averages 14.30 as a Test skipper. His scoring sequence across all formats over the course of the 2020-21 season in international cricket reads: 30, 30, 17, 18, 10 and 15.
As skipper, he looked disinterested and disillusioned against England in the white-ball series. That carried into a Test series against a poor Sri Lanka side. Now he has started the Pakistan series in a manner that screams indifference for the importance of his role a captain and senior batsman.
The Proteas selectors have to act decisively and urgently. They can’t wait until after the Australia Test series to make a determination on the captaincy, as is the current timeline. De Kock isn’t the answer as captain of the Test side, even in the short term.
He is a generational talent who is being drained to professional death by the responsibility of leading a team in transition. It is compromising him and the team.
His reputation shouldn’t shield him from being dropped, either. That reputation has thus far acted as just that. If he was anyone else, his form would elicit debates about his ongoing value, particularly since there is a highly promising alternative in Kyle Verreynne.
This is a drastic course of action, though. I don’t see a poor player who warrants being dropped. I see a immensely gifted one who doesn’t have the emotional maturity to perform under the weight of leadership responsibility the selectors and team demand he carry.
There is no shame in stripping him of the captaincy. It just didn’t work out. It is not an indictment on anyone’s judgement.
Persisting in the hope that De Kock adapts, runs the risk of completely destroying the player. He is 28 years old and should be approaching the prime of his career. Instead, the risk is that he falls out of love with the game and drifts into a career marked by an early international retirement in favour of a nomadic existence in T20 tournaments around the world.
Proteas head coach Mark Boucher spoke this week about the importance of the team being ‘brave’ in their approach. It is now time to display such bravery in intervening in the career of their most naturally gifted batsman.