While the first Test at the Wanderers will be the most talked about sports event in the country over the next few days, the most talked about cricketer in the South Africa will turn out in front of two men and a dog in a domestic four-day match in Potchefstroom.
Quinton de Kock returned to training with the Highveld Lions this week ahead of their Sunfoil Series match against the Dolphins in Potchefstroom starting tomorrow. De Kock won’t keep and will bat at No3, while Thami Tsolekile, released from the national squad on Tuesday, will don the wicket-keeping gloves. De Kock’s coach at the Lions, Geoffrey Toyana, said there was no discernable evidence that events of the last few weeks had gone to the young prodigy’s head.
“I was watching him very carefully at training,” said Toyana, “and it was just the normal Quinny. He hit more balls than anyone else, because he needs to get reacquainted with that red ball again; he hasn’t played ‘red ball cricket’ for nearly a year. I’ll be keeping a closer eye on him over the next few days, just to see if he’s head’s gotten bigger, but to us, he just seems normal, always joking. A fun kid.”
The kid turned 21 on Tuesday, usually the age defining adulthood, and while there were plenty of juvenile tendencies as far as his game was concerned, Toyana believes that in the last six months those characteristics have largely disappeared. “I can’t believe how much he’s changed in that regard, his work ethic nowadays from when he was a 15 year old is just so much different.”
Toyana is among the group – currently a very small one – asking for calm about elevating De Kock into the Test side. “You look at his facebook wall, you look at twitter, everyone wants him in the Test team. But there’s no need to rush it. I feel he needs about two years at franchise level. For me, at the moment, Thami is still the best back-up keeper for South Africa. These are a big two years for Quinton, he needs to learn his cricket still at franchise level. In the larger scheme of his career, how much difference does it make if he starts playing Tests when he’s 23? I don’t want people pushing him too quickly; it won’t hurt him to learn his trade a bit more. At 23 he’ll still be a younger man.”
Meanwhile it’s been agreed that Lonwabo Tsotsobe needs a break after playing for the SA ODI team in recent weeks. He won’t be part of the XI to take on the Dolphins, along with Chris Morris who damaged an ankle at training on Tuesday. Dieter Klein has been drafted into the starting side, for a match the Lions are desperate to win after suffering a calamitous defeat to the Knights in Kimberley in their last outing. “I want to see a response,” said Toyana, “especially from our batsmen. But they get a chance to redeem themselves on a good batting pitch in Potch. We played poorly in Kimberley, and it’d be nice to go into Christmas top of the log after a win.”
l Junior Dala will play in place of Hardus Viljoen, who was suspended on Tuesday following an altercation with the Titans’ Farhaan Behardien in a match three weeks ago. Behardien has also been suspended for one week. Both players pleaded guilty to a charge in terms of clause 6.3.1 (f) that deals with using language that is seriously obscene, offensive or insulting towards another participant.
Lions team: Dominic Hendricks, Stephen Cook (capt), Quinton de Kock, Neil McKenzie, Temba Bavuma, Zander de Bruyn, Thami Tsolekile, Dieter Klein, Pumelela Matshikwe, Junior Dala, Eddie Leie.
Fixtures: Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras v Chevrolet Knights, Cape Town; Chevrolet Warriors vs Unlimited Titans, Port Elizabeth; bizhub Highveld Lions v Sunfoil Dolphins. - The Star