Watching Quinton de Kock scoring his match-winning hundred against World Cup champions England at Cape Town on Tuesday one could not help feeling that if there is one man who can lift South Africa from the mire it finds itself now in it is the talented young wicket keeper batsman. Legends like Graeme Smith, Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis can lay the groundwork off it but on the field, it is de Kock who holds the key towards the resurgence. It may be asking for too much for one man to lead a recovery but this is not the case because it concerns a cricketer who all at once is dynamic, sincere, serious and a deep thinker of the game.
Behind the stumps or in front of them de Kock like Adam Gilchrist and MS Dhoni before him has the ability to lift the morale of his teammates through the brilliance of his performance. Tuesday provided enough evidence. It was never going to be easy chasing a tricky target of 259 and things became tougher when Reeze Hendricks was out at 25. It was de Kock who nursed Temba Bavuma through an early uncertain phase taking much of the strike all the while blazing forth with breathtaking shots.
Bavuma inspired his captain then picked up the cue and by the time de Kock was out for 107 in the 36th over – after the second wicket pair had added 173 runs – the match was as good as over and South Africa were home with 14 deliveries and seven wickets to spare.
De Kock is one of the few cricketers who is highly successful both in Tests and limited overs cricket. In the just-concluded Test series he was the one shining star amidst the dark clouds hovering over South Africa’s dismal campaign. He comfortably topped the batting stats with 380 runs at an average of 47.50 with four half-centuries for a side that did not notch up a century in the four matches. And with Faf du Plessis increasingly under the scanner both for his batting failures and his captaincy surely it is only a matter of time before de Kock takes over the leadership in Tests too. His detractors might say that his approach is more instinctive than strategic but de Kock as he showed on Tuesday besides being intuitive can also fall back on tactical planning should the occasion arise. In any case when leading from the front – a basic prerequisite for a captain – there is no one better than de Kock.