When the test squad was announced over a week ago, one notable omission had South African fans collectively raising their eyebrows. While he had not been part of the Test team since the Bangladesh tour back in July, it was assumed that a home series against England would be the perfect time to ease him back into the side.
At the ripe age of 23, the young man already has 52 ODIs and 22 T20Is to his name and would have naturally believed he had done enough in the limited overs series in India to prove his worth and regain a place in the now rather underwhelming Test squad. With the batting having been as poor as it was in India, de Kock may have felt that another chance to impress would come on home soil. Unfortunately, he has lost out on this opportunity and despite his exclusion, there were many reasons why the talented, young wicket-keeper/batsman should have been chosen for this upcoming intriguing battle between South Africa and England.
Firstly and perhaps most crucially, he removes the added responsibility on AB de Villiers. With Quinton de Kock waiting in the wings as an extremely capable wicket-keeper, it is rather baffling that the South African selectors chose to heap added pressure on de Villiers instead. As the team’s best batsman and unarguably, the most reliable currently, it seems unjustified to saddle him with the added workload. At 30 years old with a fragile back, it seems a rather ridiculous decision by the CSA. Quinton de Kock is a highly able batsman, with a decent average of 33 in the six matches he has played, so the justification of “lack of depth in the batting department” provided by them as the reason de Villiers was reinstated as wicket keeper is unfounded.
Another key reason for his inclusion would be his slight superiority to Stiaan van Zyl. This may seem rather harsh, given van Zyl has already accumulated a test century (while de Kock has not), but it must be noted that this 100 came against the West Indians who have spiralled into disrepair in recent years. Against India, he struggled massively, with high scores of 36 and 10; the rest of his innings were single digit scores. It is worth noting that even accomplished senior men like Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis failed to impose themselves in the challenging conditions, but the dropping of van Zyl for the final test indicated that perhaps, a change was necessary. The opening partnership is one that sets the tone for the innings and given de Kock’s experience there in the ODI and T20 format, I believe he deserves the chance to be afforded that opening berth in tests.
Another grounds for selection would be his ability to slot in where needed. While Stiaan van Zyl has been used only as an opener, de Kock has not been given an opening spot yet and has had to bide his time at no 6 and 7. This versatility would come in handy in an underperforming South African line up and perhaps add some backbone to a rather weak looking lower order. While ultimately he would obviously be keen to establish himself as an opener, for now this versatility should have been enough for him to be chosen ahead of van Zyl. With youth on his side as well, he has a bright future ahead in South African cricket and amongst the ageing test squad, perhaps some exuberance and energy would not go amiss.
His recent comments in November of “I would like to play Test cricket for South Africa” and his keenness to even take on the challenge of a no 6 or 7 batting spot shows that this young man is willing to take on any role to re-establish himself in the South African team. Having played his first Test against Australia in February 2014 at the age of 21, this talent is no stranger to pressure situations and would have relished the chance to battle against another old foe.
While the opportunity to impress this summer may have gone, it is essential that Quinton de Kock keeps amassing runs with South Africa A and in domestic cricket to prove to the selectors that he is worthy of being chosen. At just 23 years old, he has numerous years to showcase his talents on the global stage and it is only a matter of time before his is reintroduced to the South African test squad.