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Burden of leadership

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Quinton de Kock understands the game, he's constantly helping the captain on the field even when he's just a normal player

THE STEP UP: South Africas stand-in captain Quinton de Kock should do well in the two remaining ODIs against Sri Lanka considering he was the SA Under-19 captain, and that he has some experienced heads to call on in the team.

Quinton de Kock may be a man of few words when trying to explain his game or the game in general to the media, but that’s not something his teammates find when he’s on the field. Hence he’s been made South Africa’s captain for the remainder of the ODI series in Sri Lanka.

It is a surprising decision by the selectors given De Kock’s often straightforward assessment of
his game, whether that be when named Man of the Match or the country’s best cricketer as was the case last year.

However, at the age of 25, with 93 ODI caps to his name, an international career that’s heading into its fifth year and as a former SA Under-19 captain, it’s a decision – leaving aside how De Kock speaks in public about the game – that makes sense, sort of.

On the one hand South Africa needed a replacement for Faf du Plessis who injured his shoulder in the third One-Day International last Sunday and will require six weeks of rest and rehabilitation as a result.

Another aspect is the wretched form and loss of confidence experienced by Aiden Markram, while the team’s coach Ottis Gibson also noted other aspects of De Kock’s cricket personality that go unnoticed by the public.

“Since I got here, speaking to the players and through my interactions with Quinton, I could see he has a very good cricket brain, he understands the game,” Gibson said yesterday.

“With Faf injured now seems like a good opportunity to show that side of his game as a leader for the next two games and see how he does. He understands the game, he’s constantly helping the captain on the field and he shows good leadership on the field even when he’s just a normal player.”

As South Africa’s Under-19 coach in 2012 Ray Jennings didn’t think De Kock set a good example however, with Jennings, as tough a disciplinarian as there is in the game, questioning the young man’s work
ethic up to the time he turned professional and then even as he started making his way as an international player.

If there was a problem with his work ethic, it’s not something his coaches noticed at franchise level – former Highveld Lions coach Geoffrey Toyana offered lavish praise for how De Kock worked on his fitness and technique – and even in the short period he’s been in charge Gibson has seen De Kock grow up.

“He’s matured a lot recently since I’ve been here and hopefully that is something that will help mature him further as a player,” Gibson added.

With the likes of Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, who will captain the team in the one-off T20 International next week, and David Miller around, De Kock isn’t lacking for experienced heads to turn to when required.

The player who last captained the Proteas when Du Plessis was injured against India, Markram, is being given room to rediscover his best form without the burden of leadership – for now said Gibson.

“He’s not in the team at the moment, he’s had some struggles on this Sri Lanka tour so far so we thought let’s have a look at Quinny for the next two games and give Aiden time to just settle himself, catch himself again, we know he is a fine player,” Gibson remarked.

Markram has scored 44 runs in eight innings in Sri Lanka, including three ducks, and has looked a shell of the player who celebrated a magnificent century against Australia at the Wanderers in March.

But this is a significant growth period for him still and given how he has overcome difficulties in the past, backing him now is definitely the right option.

“We are very confident he will catch form again and there will be other opportunities for us to grow that other side of his leadership as well,” Gibson added.

Today’s match is a day/night affair and is due to start at 11am, SA time.

SQUADS

South Africa: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (capt), Aiden Markram, JP Duminy, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Wiaan Mulder, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lungi Ngidi, Reeza Hendricks, Junior Dala

Sri Lanka: Niroshan Dickwella, Shehan Jayasuriya, Dhananjaya de Silva, Angelo Mathews (capt), Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Prabath Jayasuriya, Lahiru Kumara, Suranga Lakmal, Kusan Rajitha, Lakshan Sandakan, Dusan Shanaka, Upul Tharanga.