Cape Town – Quinton de Kock’s reign as Proteas ODI skipper gets underway officially on Tuesday with the first ODI against England at Newlands, and the balancing act he faces is unique in numerous ways.
Not only does he have to navigate his way through the demands that come with international captaincy, but De Kock will also have to keep wicket while remaining his country’s most destructive weapon with the bat at the top of the order.
That is perhaps less daunting, however, than the balance he must find as a selector and a captain.
South Africa’s ODI side, thanks largely to a failed World Cup campaign that saw them finish a miserable seventh in England last year, is on the ropes somewhat.
This is a period of renewal and De Kock must guide the Proteas back to credibility. That can only come through achieving positive results, but along the way they will also need identify young, untested talent that can take the side to the 2023 World Cup in India.
There are four uncapped players in the current 15-man squad with the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Dwaine Pretorius, Faf du Plessis and Anrich Nortje rested.
When one factors in that Imran Tahir, Hashim Amla and JP Duminy, who were all at the World Cup, have retired and that the still-available Dale Steyn is out injured, then the new look to this current crop is unmissable.
De Kock needs to win but also make space for experimentation, and that is a balancing act he will not be familiar with in his new leadership role.
Kyle Verreynne, Lutho Sipamla, Bjorn Fortuin and Janneman Malan are all potential debutants in the series while another in Sisanda Magala was included in the initial squad but will not play as he continues to work on his fitness levels.
It doesn’t mean that any of them will play on Tuesday, however, with De Kock prioritising victory in his first assignment.
“It’s important we start off with a win here. It will be great for the team environment and the boys seem like they’re up for it,” the skipper said on Monday.
“We’re at a rebuilding stage in the 50-over format and we’re looking at the 2023 World Cup. We’re looking at the youngsters and the new guys to come through and give them the best opportunity we can and the most opportunities we can.
“We want to help them grow as cricketers and give them the best chance for the future.
“But for now, we just want to win the series. There is still a lot of time to give a lot of opportunities, but I think for now it’s just better for us as a team that we get a series win.
“I think that’s important now for the morale of the team and then in the future we will be giving more opportunities.”
De Kock’s predecessor, Faf du Plessis, was very influential in team selections and De Kock expects to be equally involved.
“It’s not going to be any more or any less than what Faf had, I guess,” he said.
“We’ll come to a decision at the time and everyone will give their input … me, Bouch (coach, Mark Boucher) and the selectors. We’ll come up with a plan and I think that’s how we’ll go about it.
“The more information, the better, as long as we all have an understanding.”
While a series against the world champions might be considered a difficult one for a new captain, De Kock had some fighting talk for his opponents.
“It’s like playing any other team. You have a World Cup, but it doesn’t change anything,” he said.
“It’s still a normal English team that we’ve played against before. I think last time they were here we played quite well and won the series, so it doesn’t change anything if they are World Cup winners or not.
“It’s like playing any other team … Australia, England, Bangladesh … it doesn’t matter.”
Before any captaincy is scrutinised, the Proteas are desperate for De Kock to be their man with the bat who is single-handedly capable of taking games away from opposition attacks. There are few in world cricket who can do that as well as South Africa’s new leader, and there will be concerns over how the added burden of captaincy impacts on De Kock’s batting.
The good news for Proteas fans is that De Kock himself has no such fears.
“I hope so,” he said when asked if the captaincy could improve his run-scoring.
In his only two matches as captain to date, De Kock scored 23 and 54 against Sri Lanka away from home in 2018.
Play on Tuesday starts at 13:00.