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Captaincy working wonders for de Kock

Captaincy working wonders for de Kock

25 September 2019, by: Prasenjit Dey of CricXtasy

Captaincy working wonders for de Kock

Quinton de Kock didn’t look like himself as a batsman a few months back. He still ended up as the third-highest run-getter for his team in what was a disastrous World Cup outing for South Africa.

But those who have seen him bat, both before and during the mega-event, could sense that this was an entirely different batsman as compared to the de Kock we have always known.

It is a treat to watch the 26-year-old at his best. de Kock exudes confidence when he is in his full flow. His trade-mark cover-drives, both off the front and the back-foot, are delightful to watch.

The way he deals with the short deliveries, both while pulling and cutting them, shows how aggressive he is against anything pitched on that length. In fact, the timing of his shots when he is at the peak of his confidence is impeccable.

However, all of this was missing during the World Cup in England. He had three fifties to his name in the nine outings but it was painful and disappointing to watch him struggle through each of those knocks. None of those innings were as smooth as we are accustomed to seeing when de Kock bats.

The reasons behind his struggles during the mega-event are not clear but the early defeats during the tournament and the pressure of performing with most other players misfiring might have contributed to his problems. But everything is different now.

de Kock came to India as the newly-appointed skipper of a new-look South African T20I side. It didn’t have most of the familiar and experienced faces, but the South African stumper now had a fresh squad to work with, that too, in a fresh assignment.

Rain played spoilsport in the first T20I at Dharamsala as the match was abandoned without a ball being bowled. And the Proteas were then beaten comprehensively in the second T20I at Mohali. Although de Kock got his side off to a strong start with a 37-ball knock of 52 runs, they lost the momentum after his dismissal.

India were all over the Proteas after the first 10 overs of the match and, thus, it turned out to be an early lesson for de Kock and a young South African side.

However, de Kock showed tremendous character and confidence in the way he marshalled his young troops in the third and final T20I at Bengaluru. First, he executed all his bowling plans to perfection to restrict India to a paltry total of 134/9.

And, then, he made a strong statement with the bat once again as he remained unbeaten on a score of 79 off just 52 deliveries to power South Africa to an inspiring 9-wicket victory.

The southpaw showed that it is possible to overcome all odds with a positive mindset and self-belief. de Kock got an appreciation for his efforts from every nook and corner. Even his teammates were in awe of his performance and the way he led the side.

“They did not have enough runs to put us under pressure and Quinton is a world-class player, he has played here so many times, he never even gave them a sniff. We came here today with a goal to win and to send a strong message. The captain led from the front,” said Rassie van der Dussen, de Kock’s deputy, during the post-match press conference after the final match at Bengaluru.

Interestingly, de Kock wasn’t sure before the series how the added responsibility of leading the side would work out for him.

“It is a new stepping stone in my career, gives me extra responsibility. Not sure if it would affect me negatively or positively,” the South African skipper had said before the second T20I at Mohali.

However, it looks like he has taken this role of leading the side well. Captaincy is bringing the best out of him as a batsman. Before this series, he averaged only 27.71 in T20Is with an overall tally of 887 runs in 36 matches.

And when you come to think of oodles of talent he possesses, only two scores of fifty-plus doesn’t even justify his potential as a batsman. However, after this series against India, he has crossed the 1000-run mark in the format and his T20I average has shot up to a respectable figure of 30.84 as well.

The most impressive part about his batting approach in this series has been the way he handled the Indian spinners. His struggles against spin during the previous tours have been well documented. However, he focused on rotating the strike against the spinners this time and pounced on the bad deliveries whenever on offer.

It looks like he has worked on his technique and approach a lot in the past couple of months and he is reaping the rewards now.

This improvement in his technique gives hope to the South African fans considering that the Test series starts next and the Proteas batsmen would have to face World-Class spinners like Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja on what could be potential dust-bowls.

Playing against them in India has been a real test of skill and temperament for the South African batsmen over the years. Most of South Africa’s experienced players in these Conditions, like AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla, are not even around in the international scheme of things anymore.

But de Kock, who has been with the team since a very young age, is still here. He won’t be the skipper in the Test series but he is still going to be a part of South Africa’s leadership group. And he, along with Test skipper Faf du Plessis, needs to lead the Proteas’ charge against the Indian spinners to bring an end to their longstanding struggles.

de Kock has been with the team during their previous tours of India and he knows what needs to be done to succeed in these conditions. The T20I series has already shown that he has a gameplan and, now, it remains to be seen how he executes it in this format as well.

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