Quinton de Kock and Jon-Jon Smuts of South Africa in partnership during the match between South Africa and England at Imperial Wanderers in Johannesburg, February 9 2020. Picture: SYDNEY SESHIBEDI/GALLO IMAGES
Quinton de Kock and Jon-Jon Smuts of South Africa in partnership during the match between South Africa and England at Imperial Wanderers in Johannesburg, February 9 2020. Picture: SYDNEY SESHIBEDI/GALLO IMAGES

Before the Pink Day game started on Sunday, just after he had lost a toss at his former home ground, Quinton de Kock showed he was already growing into the role as captain. In his post-toss chat he cut his use of the word “obviously” to just three mentions.

Previously, he had rivalled only the now retired Vernon Philander for the use of “obviously” with the media. Perhaps the retirement of Big Vern has given him no competition from a man who was seemingly oblivious to his use of “obvious”.

It was obvious he would have preferred to win the toss at the Wanderers. History suggests the team batting second has won here more often than not.

He did not say that, of course, but it looked obvious. De Kock had wandered around impatiently as he waited for Shaun Pollock to talk to him beside the wicket after the toss. He had places to be, pink pads to put on, an innings to prepare for. The Pink Day awaited, with all the pomp and nonsense and grandeur of it.

As De Kock and Reeza Hendricks walked out to the middle, four likely lads spray-painted their pink skins even pinker before they entered the Wanderers stadium to attend the Pink Day one-day international (ODI) between SA and England on Sunday. Paint is easier to buy than pink shirts, obviously.

It was a day of pink in the north of Joburg, as it should be, to bring awareness of breast cancer. There was pink from Corlett Drive to the Wanderers golf course. They sold pink tutus for R60 each. They had pink gins for sale. There were pink jackets and ties in the Long Room.

The England team came to the party with pink on the shoulders of their kit. The plastic beer mugs were pink. Hell, even the bread rolls in the media centre were pink.

It was a magnificently pink gathering, one of the biggest annual sports days in Johannesburg, it was claimed on local radio. Tickets were sold out well in advance for a stadium that can seat just over 30,000 at its limit. Though if you were involved with the 2009 Indian Premier League (IPL) final here, some would say there were another 10,000 in her that night, with every space legally and illegally occupied.

That this Sunday’s match came at a time when Cricket SA and the Proteas are not in the pink, with both desperately seeking change that will take a time to happen, was not forgotten.

There is still uncertainty. Suspended CEO Thabang Moroe has still not had his day in court. The three employees Moroe suspended are still waiting to hear their fate. The administration is in a hither and thither place, with an acting CEO in Dr Jacques Faul, who wrestled Cricket SA back into line in 2012 when he replaced the sacked Gerald Majola, who had played fast and fancy free with that 2009 IPL.

The Proteas are in a weird space, one they have been in before and will be in again. Such is the nature of the evolution of teams as they lose legends and stalwarts, and fight to change quicker than the international programme will allow them.

De Kock’s selection as captain is a clever one. First, he is, well, the first name on the team sheet. The team is built around De Kock. He is Mr Obvious. He has, as a commentator said during the first ODI win over England at Newlands, an “uncluttered” mind when he bats and fields. That, in a cluttered time, is precious.

He was uncluttered when Joe Root, who had done him up a treat and bowled him in Durban on Friday, was brought on to bowl after 11 overs with SA at 39/1. De Kock got a wicked edge on a ball that caught Adil Rashid unawares in the field by its speed.

Next, a pie of a delivery was cut away for four as easy as you like. When Temba Bavuma drove Root through the covers not long after, it seemed it could be SA’s day.

De Kock romped through to 69, a score only matched by a hungry David Miller, as SA squeezed past 250 for their 50 overs.

The new captain is making this team his own bit by bit. Showing them the way through example, chiding and guiding them in the field, and showing them how simple and obvious cricket can be.