'This lockdown has been good for me, it’s given me the break I really needed.'
JOHANNESBURG – The stress of lockdown hasn’t affected Quinton de Kock, who became the seventh player to be recognised twice as South Africa’s Cricketer of the Year on Saturday.
“I’ve had one of the world’s best lockdowns I won’t give away any secrets, but I’ve been busy,” he said during Cricket SA’s official online ceremony. “I’ve done nothing,” he expanded a little later in a tele-conference.
“This lockdown has been good for me, it’s given me the break I really needed. I’ve done nothing. I’ve not picked up a cricket bat since the Australia ODI series.”
De Kock is part of the 45-man high performance group that was supposed to go back to training in the nets last week. The likes of Kagiso Rabada, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, Reeza Hendricks and Tabraiz Shamsi have loved being back in the nets, but De Kock is cut from a somewhat different cloth.
With no formal cricket on the horizon, he hasn’t felt the need to get back into serious training.
“I’ve kept up with fitness; done training in the gym, but not hit a ball yet.
“I needed a little break to spend time with myself, family and friends and do my own thing. I’ve tried to really stay away from cricket. When we get the go-ahead for serious cricket, then I’ll get back into it.”
De Kock has always marched to the beat of his own drum. It has caused friction with coaches over the course of his career, but those who know how to manage him can get the best out of him.
Last season saw De Kock produce some excellent performances in what was otherwise a sorry summer for the Proteas, largely the result of administrative mismanagement that still hasn’t been properly resolved by Cricket SA.
De Kock described it as a “difficult” season given all the distractions off the field.
“There were a lot of changes after the World Cup.
“A guy like (former skipper) Faf du Plessis was under a lot of pressure, I just wanted to make sure I backed him.
“Then there were a lot of changes; it’s always difficult. I found a way mentally to get past it. Playing for a high-profile team, you go through those difficult times and changes, but we got through it.”
The 27-year-old was often at the forefront; he was the leading run-scorer across the three formats in the series against England, and by the end of the season he was the captain of the Proteas in the limited overs formats, leading the side to their sole triumph of the season – a 3-0 win against Australia in an ODI series.
The Test captaincy was discussed, he said.
“Bouch (Proteas head coach Mark Boucher) and I had a very informal chat. I said I don’t know how I feel about being Test captain. The reality is that it is too much for me to handle; when it comes to the Test side I don’t need all that stress. Playing Test cricket, me wanting to come up the order, I didn’t need that extra pressure.”
Cricket SA’s director of cricket Graeme Smith has subsequently confirmed that De Kock won’t be considered for the Test captaincy.
As for batting higher up the order in the Test side, De Kock said it was a responsibility he was looking forward to embracing.
He made 76 and 39 batting in that position in the final Test against England at the Wanderers.
“I’m pretty happy at No 5, but that is for now. Things can change. I don’t know what could happen in the future. I was very comfortable there, I felt I could score big hundreds at that number.”
For a South African batting unit that has struggled to make imposing totals in the last two years, it would be a significant step.
Meanwhile, De Kock joined Jacques Kallis (2004 and 2011), Makhaya Ntini (2005 and 2006), Hashim Amla (2010 and 2013), AB de Villiers (2014 and 2015) and Kagiso Rabada (2016 and 2018) as the only players to be named the men’s cricketer of the year twice.