Proteas star wicketkeeper/batsman Quinton de Kock says he still considers himself one of the youngsters in the team. Photo: Reuters/David Gray

JOHANNESBURG – Quinton de Kock will be ready for the Champions Trophy – and his index finger has the improvements to show for it. Four more weeks, he says, and he will be ready to strap them on and lead South Africa’s charge for the trophy.

“It’s healing nicely, and it will be ready in time for the tour of the UK. I’ve got a few weeks at home, and I am just taking it easy,” De Kock said on Thursday, at an event that had the actual Champions Trophy in Sandton, as it tours the world ahead of the eight-team showpiece in England and Wales.

“It’s nice to see the trophy here, in Joburg, and hopefully we can bring it back for a longer time in June,” De Kock chirped, giving the silverware a quick glance.

The southpaw’s injury has seen him miss the tenth edition of the Indian Premier League, but the Proteas will almost certainly get back a player salivating at the prospect of being on the field. The reigning ICC One-Day International Player of the year also has unfinished – or, unstarted – business with the tournament.

“I was actually at the last one,” he reminded one spectator who chirped that it would be his maiden voyage to the event. “But I was still a baby, and didn’t get on the field,” he winced.

This time, of course, De Kock will be one of blockbuster acts billed weeks before the action kicks off, because he has already entrenched himself as one of the foremost talents in the game.

“You know, that award is nice, but I don’t worry too much about individual accolades. As long as the team is successful, then I am happy,” he explained.

By that logic, De Kock has been happy for most of this summer, as a flood of runs, as well as some truly astonishing catches behind the stumps have made him invaluable to AB de Villiers’ team.

“It’s been a good season. If I were to pick a knock from this season, I would say the century against Sri Lanka was one that I felt really good. I was hitting the ball really nicely, and I felt like I could bat and bat,” he reflected.

“The keeping… I don’t know. There have been some nice catches, but I wouldn’t say that I have paid extra attention to it. I think it’s from playing a lot of cricket. The more I play, the better I feel behind the stumps, so it has been a good season from that side of things,” he noted.

De Kock agreed that the Proteas’ ODI setup was in a very good space, with clarity of roles and a game-plan that has become a lot more flexible.

“It has been a good season. We had some great wins, against some tough teams. I think we have a few options with bat and ball, and a lot of the youngsters have stepped up.”

In that ‘youngster’ category, De Kock still places himself, too. He is the most senior 24 year-old in the game, with the international respect to go with the baby-face.

“I am a ‘lighty’. 24… Ya, I have been in the team for a while now. I am married, but I am still a lighty.”

De Kock added that he is whiling away the time at home, with his wife and his dogs, counting down the days to a return to action.

“I am looking forward to it. Just to get over there, and get those tune-up games before he tournament.

“And then, maybe I will get to play in the tournament this time,” he said with a mischievous grin.

The cricket world knows that, as long as he is fit, Quinton de Kock will be the first name on the Proteas’ list, such is the importance of the keeper/batsman to the South African cause.

He might have been the water-boy in 2013, but his side will look to him to provide the champagne moments in the 2017 edition.

The ICC Champions Trophy starts on June 1.

Independent Media