JOHANNESBURG – Wicketkeeper batsman Quinton de Kock will have a point to prove at the ICC Champions Trophy according to Proteas coach Russell Domingo.
The Proteas departed for their tour of England on Tuesday, where they will play three One Day Internationals starting on May 24 before heading straight into the Champions Trophy with their first match falling on June 3.
De Kock tore ankle ligaments shortly before the 2015 50-over World Cup in New Zealand, but the young talent was still selected without having had any time in the middle before the showpiece event.
As a result, De Kock failed to produce the performances in that tournament he would have been seeking. Two years later, and De Kock will again come into the tournament off injury.
De Kock was ruled out of playing in the IPL with a finger injury, and has not played any cricket since March. Fresh off winning five accolades at the Cricket SA annual awards held last week, there is more responsibility being heaped on the shoulders of the 24-year-old who has already scored 12 centuries and 12 fifties in international 50-over cricket.
“I know Quinton is desperate to do well in one of these ICC events,” said Domingo at OR Tambo International airport. “He’ll probably be the first to admit that in the previous 50 over World Cup he probably didn’t meet the expectations we placed on him. I’m sure he’s got some points to prove in these type of events.”
Fortunately for Domingo, if De Kock should not come off during the Champions Trophy he can still rely on an explosive top-six which includes AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy and David Miller.
“Our top six looks after themselves. It’s about making sure we play the form allrounders going into the competition. We also need to find a way to play two spinners if we need," Domingo said.
"Having Keshav (Maharaj) there gives us a bit more batting depth, but who are the all-rounders we play with him? Do we play the frontline bowlers like Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada. We will mix and match a bit going into those first ODIs (against England).”
As for going into the Champions Trophy as the number one-ranked ODI side, Domingo said the favourites tag would not add any extra pressure on his team.
“I’d rather be number one than number five because it shows you’ve been playing good cricket. Everybody wants to be ranked number one, there’s no doubt about it. When we were number seven in Tests, I was nearly killed. It’s no blessing, no curse. It just gives us a lot of confidence," he said.
“We can take a lot of comfort that in a lot of our bilateral series like beating India in India in front of 60 000 people – we’ve done it. Having to beat New Zealand in Auckland to win a series, we’ve done that. Having to beat England in a final of a series, we’ve done that.
"There’s a lot of comfort and confidence we can take from winning must-win games. I’m going there at ease knowing that this team has come through pressure situations in the last year and a half.”
Away from the game, with Domingo’s contract as coach of the Proteas up in August a strong showing in the Champions Trophy could see the coach retain his position. When asked what a successful campaign in the Champions Trophy could do for Domingo’s future in the job, he said he did not know.
“I don’t know, maybe the board can answer that. I can’t answer that,” Domingo concluded.