Is there an alternative to Quinton de Kock, or should fans be resigned to the fact that he will be South Africa’s wicketkeeper for the next 10 years whether he scores runs or not?
At the moment it seems as if De Kock is enjoying a free, uncontested ride in the national setup. He has taken over from AB de Villiers in all formats of the game, but is still trying to establish himself in Test cricket.
He is 22 years old and still learning his game at the highest level, and yet the perception has been created that he is undroppable.
Mark Boucher had an uncontested run as South Africa’s first-choice wicketkeeper for 15 years and it was fortunate for the Proteas that he almost never got injured.
The difference, however, between Boucher and De Kock is the fact that Boucher was never used as a top-order batsman like De Kock is now. Boucher batted at No 7 for most of his career and his statistics don’t do his batting talent justice.
De Kock is an opening batsman and therefore more is expected of him when it comes to scoring runs consistently. Adam Gilchrist changed the role of the modern wicketkeeper forever, and De Kock is now being used in a similar role that Gilchrist was for Australia: opening the batting in ODI cricket and batting lower down the order in Tests.
It is now two years into his international career and serious questions must be asked about De Kock’s continued selection despite a lack of runs dating back to the World Cup.
People like to refer back to De Kock’s performances against India, when he scored three consecutive centuries, but that was in 2013. It’s time to move on. He has scored fifty or more only once this year (over 12 ODIs).
No one is suggesting that De Kock shouldn’t play for South Africa. There is no denying that he is a very talented batsman who will (and should) play for the Proteas for many years to come. But not when his form doesn’t justify it.
The Proteas management were reluctant to move De Kock down the order during the World Cup, where he struggled badly. He did manage to score an unbeaten 78 in the quarter-final against Sri Lanka, but then failed again in the semis.
AB de Villiers clearly doesn’t want to keep wicket anymore, and no one can really blame him. He is South Africa’s best batsman, captain of the ODI team and should continue to focus on that. But surely there must be a back-up to De Kock?
When De Villiers was withdrawn from the ODI squad for the Bangladesh series, De Kock was the only wicketkeeper left. Dane Vilas has been included in the Test squad, but it’s highly unlikely that he will get a game. Is he also the one to challenge De Kock in the 50-over format?
If not, who else is there? Modern-day wicketkeepers are like all-rounders, who need to be world-class batsmen in their own right. De Kock fits that description, but is he the only one in South Africa?
How long can South Africa go on playing with an out-of-form wicketkeeper-batsman who’s clearly struggling? Is he receiving the necessary assistance, both mentally and technically, to get through this slump?
If the selectors don’t want to drop him because there isn’t a viable alternative, then they should find one. Keeping De Kock in the team when he continues to fail with the bat will only damage his confidence.
How long is Russell Domingo willing to back De Kock? He needs to know there is competition for his place in the side. Otherwise he will get complacent and that doesn’t bode well for the future.