He plays an exciting brand of cricket, knowing that he has the licence to thrill. Unfortunately, that Quinton de Kock hasn’t been on show in the recent Test series, writes Ashfak Mohamed.
CAPE TOWN – I once attended a Proteas press conference at Newlands featuring Quinton de Kock that had me in stitches – not that I laughed in the man’s face.
His unassuming nature came through so strongly that one almost thought that he wasn’t taking the whole thing seriously.
But that’s just his style, and it was always evident in his batting as well. The dashing De Kock that opens the batting in one-day internationals, or comes in at No 7 in Test matches to take on tired bowling attacks or the second new ball, was someone you didn’t want to miss in action.
He played an exciting brand of cricket, knowing that he has the licence to thrill. Unfortunately, that De Kock hasn’t been on show in the recent Test series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
And while a lot has been said about the captaincy weighing him down – he was a reluctant stop-gap leadership figure, and is likely to be replaced for the next Test series anyway – his batting position has also played a part in his struggles lately.
Coach Mark Boucher moved the 28-year-old to No 5 for the final Test against England early last year, and De Kock responded with 76 and 39 at the Wanderers. In the recent duel with Sri Lanka, though, he scored 18 and 10, as well as 15 against Pakistan before being shifted down to No 6 in the second innings in Karachi – Keshav Maharaj was the nightwatchman – and getting out for just two.
The Rawalpindi game garnered only 29 and a duck at No 6. So, where should he bat? While De Kock may just be going through a drop in form, No 6 may also be one spot too high. It means that for the first time in his Test career, he is truly being looked at as a specialist batsman, which comes with its own pressures.
It just appears as if De Kock is not playing with that same freedom that batting at No 7 does. There is less responsibility on him in that position in many ways. Batting with the tailenders means that he can attack the bowlers and get quick runs. And if it comes off, then it’s spectacular for him and the team, and if not, you can easily blame the top six batsmen for not doing their jobs.
At No 6, De Kock averages 27.22 in 28 innings, and that shoots up to 49.87 in 35 innings at No 7.
The structure of the team also influences De Kock’s style. With six specialist batsmen above him, he has the liberty to play the situation at No 7, so perhaps that is another aspect that Boucher needs to consider going forward.
Six specialist batsmen – one or two of whom need to chip in with a few overs, such as Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram – De Kock at No 7, and four specialist bowlers.
That strategy may just unlock the best of that laid-back De Kock once more.