Paarl – To go forward, you must go back, is a virtue many hold steadfastly to.
The Proteas seem to back that philosophy with Mark Boucher on Thursday returning to the squad to share his pearls of wisdom with rookie wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock at the Claremont Cricket Club in Constantia.
Boucher is a legend in South African cricket. He played 147 Tests, 295 ODIs and 25 T20Is, amassing 999 dismissals across all formats. It remains a world record, and the figure would have been stretched further had the 36-year-old not suffered a freak eye injury that sent him into immediate retirement last July.
Experience like this is a high-priced commodity that cannot be bought at the local corner shop. So, with De Kock set to put his baby toe into the big pool of international one-day cricket for the first time on Saturday when he makes his debut in Paarl, coach Gary Kirsten could not let this gilt-edged opportunity pass him by.
“When Mark retired, he took 147 Test matches of experience with him. We certainly wouldn’t want to turn it away. I think he has a lot to offer. We felt this was the perfect place for him to spend some time with young ‘keeper Quinton,” Kirsten said on Thursday at his local club.
“It’s really to give him an understanding, not necessarily about the skills required, but rather the pressure associated with international competition. I think it is important that you have a base to work from with the pressures you are confronted with. I am excited that Mark can add some value and he is excited to be involved.”
Boucher’s interaction with the young Highveld Lions gloveman could not have come at a better time. The 20-year-old has a disciplinary case pending after being involved in an altercation with a Cape Cobras player, Alistair Gray, last weekend in a domestic fixture at Newlands. There was the possibility that he could even have missed the first two ODIs, but Kirsten confirmed that De Kock will take the gloves from captain AB de Villiers for the three-match New Zealand series.
“The plan is to keep with Quinton in all three (matches). The reason behind that is two-fold: we want to give AB a real chance of just being captain. He feels to captain, keep wicket and bat at No 4 is a really hard task especially as a new captain. It was something we spoke about before even he started the role at the beginning of his captaincy career,” Kirsten said
“He (De Villiers) really wants to focus his attention on his captaincy. The other side of that is to have a look at a young ‘keeper that has some quality batting in him. Everybody within cricket circles is really excited about Quinton’s batting. I remember a certain Mark Boucher, 17 or 18 years ago, showed massive batting quality and came through as a ‘keeper.”
Kirsten did not give anything away in terms of where De Kock will play in the batting line-up tomorrow, but stressed that the Proteas’ new-found flexibility will continue in this series. Kirsten the guru, who led India to World Cup success in 2011 before returning to the country he represented in 101 Tests, believes this formula has been successful recently
Proteas ODI squad
AB de Villiers (capt), Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, Colin Ingram, Rory Kleinveldt, Ryan McLaren, Morné Morkel, Robin Peterson, Aaron Phangiso, Graeme Smith, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.