Quinton de Kock is tougher than many give him credit for
JOHANNESBURG - “What did Quinton de Kock say to (David) Warner?” is the question people most ask about Quinton de Kock on Google.
It’s of course very unfair, that that unedifying episode should be what people are most interested about when it comes to De Kock, who on Tuesday will become the 22nd South African cricketer to play 50 Tests when he leads the Proteas out at the National Stadium in Karachi to face Pakistan.
De Kock has done much else in the Test side besides stand up for himself against Warner. But because publicly he’s a very quiet individual it’s hard to define his personality. So when he spoke out, having been provoked by Warner, and became a central character in ‘Le-Affaire stairwell,’ perhaps, in one sense, especially for the cricket world outside of South Africa, that is his most noteworthy contribution.
There is, of course, much more to him. The outdoors as Proteas coach Mark Boucher mentioned on Monday, is De Kock’s first love. The day before departing for Pakistan he posted pictures and a video to Instagram of catching a ragged tooth shark near his home in Knysna. Given how he’d missed a Test match once before after tripping over a rock while walking his dogs, it’s perhaps not the way Cricket SA or the Proteas coaching staff, would have him take his mind off cricket before a tour.
But, as Boucher said before the first Test against England last summer: “You can have one Quinny in your side, but you probably can’t have eleven.” That was in reference to De Kock not wanting his mind overwhelmed with cricket when he wasn’t playing.
De Kock’s style of cricket is reflected in that old mantra: ‘keep it simple.’ If the ball is there to be hit, hit it. If it's there to catch, catch it. Asked to talk about the sport that’s made him a fairly wealthy 28 year old, he’ll tell it as he played it, using as few words as possible. And once the day is done, crack a beer, have a laugh and when he’s away from cricket, fish, or hunt and enjoy the outdoors.
He genuinely doesn’t look back at the past. De Kock’s noteworthy Test performances are for others to judge and they go much further than what he told Warner in Durban.
In judging his best displays it’s apparent, De Kock is tougher than many give him credit for. Of his nine highest Test scores, eight have come when South Africa has been in some form of trouble - whether not pressing home an advantage as was the case with his 104 in Hobart in 2016 - or to pull the team out of the mire and get them into a position from which they won. His 95 last summer at Centurion against England came after South Africa was 111/5 in their first innings, while he made 91 against New Zealand in Wellington 2017, having come to the crease at 79/5, turning what had been a position of dominance for the Black Caps, into a win ultimately for the Proteas. Four of his five centuries were scored with South Africa five wickets down and less than 200 on the board.
Given his rich natural talent many believe that he should have had more than just five centuries and that his Test average, instead of being 39.89, should more comfortably sit in the mid-40s.
Hence all this talk about his batting position and even in some circles whether he should keep at all. De Kock wants to keep, but where he bats is still a matter of debate. His best spot is no.7 - from where he’s scored all five of his Test centuries, and averages just short of 50.
Boucher wants him at no.5 at the moment, believing he’s able to make a bigger impact there. De Kock’s happy to do it, but it’s another load for him to bear along with the Test captaincy. “We are trying to help him out as much as we can in that department,” said Boucher about the Test captaincy. “I’m very happy he’s taken on that role. I know it is tough at times, especially when your performances aren’t exactly where you want them to be.”
De Kock’s not done much with the bat this season, arguably the toughest he’s had to play in, given all the extra baggage, along with the restrictions in place with ‘bio bubbles.’
That he is critical to the Proteas’s success is unquestionable, as his toughness, which has been illustrated much more by what he's done than what he’s said to an Australian opener.