While India are riding the high waves and New Zealand are only too happy to spoil the Test championship party for Australia, there is one team that is in a world of trouble, even if it is not immediately obvious.
When Pakistan were beaten by New Zealand in New Zealand, one of the reasons cited for the New Zealand government’s disciplinary measures and Pakistan’s poor results was the long time spent in confined areas and bio secure bubbles. It will not be surprising if a similar reason is fielded for why South Africa could not simply get into the groove in the first Test. If they cannot make a quick turnaround in fortunes, Australia will be licking their lips at the prospect, having no hesitation to travel to South Africa in the hope that the series will them the much-needed points to make it to the inaugural ICC World Test Championship in June at Lord’s.
The announcement of Quinton de Kock as South Africa’s Test captain was met with shock not necessarily because of questions about his captaincy skills but rather because of the rather obvious statement by Graeme Smith, the director of cricket, that he did not want de Kock saddled with greater responsibility.
But the idea that South Africa would find a new captain, hopefully, a diverse one to meet South Africa’s quota system standards, by the time of the end of the pandemic lockdown around the world did not materialize. What it did was give Faf du Plessis time to hang up his boots as a leader and leave a vacuum South Africa chose to fill in haste by a captain who openly talked about his own terms of being what Rishabh Pant might call a “temporary” captain.
However, one Test overseas and de Kock is already being identified as the crux of the problem as someone who is burdened beyond his ability and therefore needs to be dethroned in a hurry. But can South Africa really afford to, with the Pakistan tour still on the line – he will only play the Test series – and with a plan to return to South Africa in preparation for the Test series against Australia?
South Africa are going to need more than just a change of captaincy because irrespective of who is the captain, what South Africa seem to lack is consistency and self-belief, betrayed at times at how easily they fall into a trap largely of their own device. The collapse from a position of reasonable authority even trailing Pakistan’s lead is an obvious area.
It could be argued that South Africa’s results were too easily achieved against a team like Sri Lanka in their own backyard. Likewise, it could be argued that this was a decade long protracted tour of Pakistan and the coronavirus restrictions made breathing difficult.
But a closer look in a mirror will reveal that Quinton de Kock is just the latest in a line of reluctant leaders which might be just as important issue that needs addressing even at a belated two-decade mark in addition to finding out the key to producing more consistent results, which de Kock did claim to have no clue about.