DURBAN - In light of the recently completed Test series between South Africa and India, one of the biggest talking points to arise has been the form of wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock.
The left-hander has endured the leanest of patches, a crisis in batting confidence and, aside from a cameo of 43 in the first innings in Cape Town, De Kock has been a shadow of his former self.
“He’ll be disappointed he didn’t get some scores in this series,” SA coach Ottis Gibson agreed, at the conclusion of the third Test at the Wanderers on Saturday.
“Going forward, he is still a key component in our team. We will sit down with Quinny and Dale Benkenstein, the batting coach, and see how we can rebuild his confidence.”
In De Kock’s favour is a one-day international series against a team he has enjoyed many fine moments facing. India know the danger that De Kock possesses in coloured clothing, and Gibson himself is looking forward to seeing what a change of format will do to galvanise a key player in the side.
“Well, he’s got a one-day series now, and he might go and score four hundreds in the one-day series. That’s the talent he is, so there are no worries from me,” Gibson said cheerfully.
De Kock has helped himself to five centuries against India, including three on the trot against them during their last visit to SA. Back then, in late 2013, he played without a care in the world, not shackled by the responsibility of being one of the world’s most-anticipated talents.
He blitzed India, single-handedly securing the series for SA, with such certainty of foot movement and gap-finding that he stood head and shoulders above even his own, illustrious teammates.
But, cricket goes in seasons, and that gushing run-spring of 2013 seems a long time ago now, as De Kock currently wallows in an autumnal famine for runs. Gibson and Benkenstein will be looking to getting him back to that 2013 state of not overthinking things, and simply letting his talent take over once more.
Knowing full well what De Kock has done before, they remain confident that he will turn the corner, and fire from atop the order once more.
Looking ahead to the series itself, Gibson reiterated convenor of selectors Linda Zondi’s sentiments about the need to explore other options during the six-match series. Players will be rested at some point, and newcomers like Lungi Ngidi and Khaya Zondo will get a chance to turn out and show what they can do.
“The squad is selected for the first three games, then we will look to expose a few other players at this level,” Gibson explained.
That is not to suggest that they are taking India lightly.
“India are a very good one-day team. They play more one-day cricket than we do, so we look forward to the series,” Gibson said.
“Hopefully there will be packed houses around the country, and the cricket will be very entertaining and so on.”
More than results, Gibson and company want to know what they have in reserve for the 2019 World Cup. The starting XI pretty much takes care of itself, but there are other aspects that need sorting out.
“With the emphasis on the World Cup, we want to try and expose a few more players. The fans obviously want to see the best team. We want to play some winning cricket, and we are certainly not going to devalue the cricket in any way, shape or form,” Gibson said of the rotation policy.
Winning is not the be all and end all for SA at this point, and the coach added that losing the series and gaining more insight on what he has at hand would still be valuable.
The first ODI between India and SA will be at Kingsmead, on Thursday (1pm start).