Quinton de Kock during the 3rd KFC T20 International match between South Africa and Australia at Newlands Cricket Stadium on February 26, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. Picture: ASHLEY VLOTMAN / GALLO IMAGES
Quinton de Kock during the 3rd KFC T20 International match between South Africa and Australia at Newlands Cricket Stadium on February 26, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. Picture: ASHLEY VLOTMAN / GALLO IMAGES

SA’s Quinton de Kock says he did not feel under pressure as captain after a tense one-run win in a T20 international against England earlier in February.

“I was still calm the whole way,” he said, citing confidence in the knowledge that his players understood if they stuck to the basics they could prevail in a tight finish.

De Kock’s calmness has been tested considerably since then and the challenge is to be ratcheted up in a three-match one-day series against Australia, starting at Boland Park in the Cape winelands on Saturday.

On the face of it, De Kock has been handed an almost impossible task. Several of SA’s most experienced players, including former captain Faf du Plessis, fast bowler Dale Steyn and consistent scorer Rassie van der Dussen, have been rested.

Aaron Finch will be leading what looks like a full-strength touring side with the exception of Glenn Maxwell, who is missing because of surgery. Steve Smith and David Warner, who returned to the scene of the sandpaper scandal in Wednesday’s victory at Newlands, retain their places.

This season De Kock has carried the burden of being SA’s best batsman as well as wicketkeeper and skipper.

The Proteas’ crushing defeat in the third T20 against Australia earlier this week meant they have lost five out of six series across all formats since the start of their tour of India in September.

The only exception was a rain-affected ODI series against England. During that time they have won only five out of 17 completed matches. In four of those wins De Kock has been SA’s top -scorer and in three of them he has been man of the match.

He has been his country’s leading run scorer in five of the six series and the second-highest run scorer in the other. As an opening batsman, De Kock has top scored for his side in six out of 10 white-ball matches.

When he fails, as he did when bowled in the first over by Mitchell Starc in the first and third T20 matches, the rest of the batting has crumbled. Never entirely comfortable and seldom articulate in facing the media, De Kock struggled to explain Wednesday’s loss. “I’m not too sure,” he said. “It was just another blowout.”

When De Kock was appointed, Cricket SA’s acting director of cricket, Graeme Smith, described his “unique outlook and manner in which he goes about his business”, adding he is “tactically very street smart”.

There has been some evidence of that in some of his on-field decisions, but journalists seeking meaningful insight from the captain are likely to be disappointed.

De Kock acknowledged he is not the finished article. “I’m still learning,” he said on Wednesday. “There’s a lot of things that I didn’t see as a normal player. I just hope I can get better and start putting results on the board.”

De Kock repeated the reasoning of coach Mark Boucher in explaining the absence of players unlikely to be still pushing for places in the 2023 World Cup. “Now is probably one of our better chances to give some of the younger guys an opportunity. The ODI World Cup is still a while away. Whether they take the chance or not is entirely up to them,” he said.

AFP