Proteas batter Quinton de Kock, who should know more than most as he plays his IPL cricket for the Lucknow Super Giants, is perplexed at what awaits them today.
The Ekana International Cricket Stadium in Lucknow has undergone a facelift – or should that rather be a tummy tuck, with the surface being relaid for its first ever World Cup match today (10.30am start).
But like with any cosmetic surgery that has taken place, the final outcome is somewhat of a mystery, which has caused a genuine sense of uncertainty in both the Proteas and Australian camps.
The sample size before the pitch was dug up after the IPL this year was not substantial either.
Only four one-day internationals had previously been played here, with three in 2019 and one in October last year.
Seldom has there been so much uncertainty about the 22 yards of parched earth out in the middle ahead of a major World Cup clash.
Even Quinton de Kock, who should know more than most as he plays his IPL cricket for the Lucknow Super Giants, is perplexed at what awaits them today.
The 𝐑𝐈𝐕𝐀𝐋𝐑𝐘 resumes as old foes meet again 🇿🇦 🤝 🇦🇺
🏟 Brsabve Cricket Stadium, Lucknow
📺 SuperSport Grandstand (Ch 201) & SABC 3
— Proteas Men (@ProteasMenCSA) October 12, 2023
“I don’t know what wicket we’re going to get,” De Kock told the media yesterday.
“I have seen how during the IPL … We’ve got different varieties of wickets.”
Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell, who also has years of IPL experience, was equally dumbfounded.
“It’s a bit of an unknown here,” Maxwell said. “I think it will be a fresh start for the whole ground – turn up on the day and see how it looks.”
With the pitch proving to be such a conundrum, De Kock is not wasting too much energy on matters outside of his control.
Instead, he is focusing on fronting up to arguably one of the best seam attacks in World No.1 ODI bowler Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and captain Pat Cummins.
“I think they’re a really good bowling attack. I think they’re well balanced,” De Kock said.
“You know, obviously you’ve got Starc here as a left-arm, he swings it a lot upfront, bowls really good yorkers towards the end.
“Got a guy like Hazelwood and Pat Cummins, who don’t really give you bad balls, got seriously good bouncers.”
He also had a special word for his good friend Glenn Maxwell, who has a penchant for picking up lefthanders with his off-spinners.
“I think a lot of guys under-rate him (Maxwell). I think he’s a really good offie, especially in the whiteball format. He keeps it very tight. I think teams underestimate him,” De Kock said.
“I think that’s why he does really well, because I think he knows he’s a good spinner. I think other guys don’t give him the respect he deserves. But that’s what I’ve seen and watched over the years.”
Fortunately for the Proteas, they boast a batting unit overflowing with confidence.
Not only did they smash all sorts of records, which included three centurions, in their opening game against Sri Lanka at the weekend, but they also bashed Australia to all parts in a recent home series – where they won three games on the bounce to overturn a 2-0 deficit.
However, having been part of two previous failed World Cup campaigns, De Kock still wants to see the Proteas batters perform under real pressure, like they will undoubtedly be put under by the Australians today.
“I think we’re doing really well as a batting unit. We’ve worked really hard on our game the last couple of years,” De Kock said.
“But it’s only one game into the World Cup, so it’s hard to say how we’re really going.
“Even though we’ve had it really well our last couple of games, it hasn’t been over a course of years.
It’s only been a course over a month or a couple of months.
“I think in order for us to be one of the best we need to be, we still need to be a bit more consistent – especially in tight games like World Cups. That will determine actually how good we are.”
The Proteas dressing-room can only benefit from such candour from one of their most senior players.
But should they overcome their arch-rivals Australia today, then even scarred veterans like De Kock, along with a sceptical South Africa back home, may just start to believe it could actually all be different this year.
Possible teams for Lucknow
South Africa: Temba Bavuma (captain), Quinton de Kock, Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Marco Jansen, Gerald Coetzee, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi/Lungi Ngidi
Australia: David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Cameron Green/Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (captain), Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Adam Zampa