I included Quinton de Kock - an obvious choice, and wrote that: “It may be exaggerating to state that ‘as De Kock goes, so goes South Africa,’ but such is his importance to the team, that if he has a poor tournament, the side will struggle.”
De Kock didn’t have a good tournament, and I’m not sure why. This is not to bash the precocious wicket-keeper/batsman, but in trying to understand South Africa’s umpteenth failure at an ICC event, it’s worth weighing up one particular statistic as it pertains to De Kock.
Prior to the tournament, he had a strike rate (runs scored per 100 balls faced) of 95.11.
A big part of why South Africa’s ODI batting line-up was so respected, was the quick starts he provided. That wasn’t the case in the Champions Trophy.
De Kock scored 109 runs off 163 balls across the three innings - a strike rate of 66.87 - nearly 30 points lower than his overall ODI scoring rate.
In all, De Kock hit eight boundaries in the tournament - eight boundaries off 163 balls.
So, why was De Kock playing with the brakes on? Was it his own personal choice? Was he under instruction to do so? If one of the key weapons in making South Africa the No 1 team in the world was the pressure De Kock exerted through his flamboyant scoring at the start of the innings, where was it in this tournament?
Many have questioned the team’s toughness in ICC tournaments.
It’s bizarre, because the same players when donning Test ‘whites’, have shown backbone.
Think back to last summer and the Tests in Perth and Wellington when South Africa were under pressure but were able to steel themselves and transfer pressure back onto the opposition – on both those occasions, De Kock’s attacking stroke-play was key to South Africa winning.
In the Champions Trophy it appeared like he was handcuffed.
By whom? The coach? The captain? His opening partner? Or did he do it to himself out of some – as it turns out – mistaken belief that that is what was right for the team? The pressure of tournament play, so restrictive on South Africa down the years, appears to have been visited on one of the players most likely to break those shackles.
It doesn’t speak to a very good dressing-room environment and suggests that for all AB de Villiers’ desire to win in 2019, if he can’t get the team to play its natural game, he’ll leave the international arena as a bitterly disappointed and unfulfilled cricketer.