Mark Boucher has given Quinton de Kock’s captaincy a thumbs-up after his first series as the permanent ODI skipper, and expects former 50-over and current T20 captain Faf du Plessis to be back for the next series against Australia.
De Kock will lead South Africa in three T20s against England next week before Australia visit for three ODIs and three T20s that will end on March 7. Du Plessis and Kagiso Rabada have been given extended rest for the England matches but Boucher expects both to return as South Africa continue to plan for the T20 World Cup and beyond.
“Faf is still one of our best T20 players,” Boucher said. “We feel at this point in time he needs a bit of a break away from the game. It’s always good to have a bit of a rest. There is going to be a lot of cricket for them leading up to a World Cup so any opportunity we get to give guys a bit of rest and give other guys opportunities to see what they’re all about. I would like to think against Australia, the rest will be enough and they can come back and play.”
De Kock, however, is having entirely the opposite experience and has played in all South Africa’s matches of the summer so far. Since being promoted to ODI captain he also now plays a treble role in leading the side, opening the batting and keeping wicket, something de Kock embraced pre-series and then excelled in, giving Boucher good reason to say he thinks “it is sustainable” for de Kock to have so much to do.
“A lot of people questioned [MS] Dhoni when he was captaining India and he had a great captaincy record,” Boucher said. “Quinny enjoys being in the game. Sometimes he sits in the dressing room during Test-match cricket and he gets really irritated because he wants to be doing something all the time. I think he really enjoys it. The off-the-field stuff is the stuff that might get to him a bit. We’re going to have to help him in that regard. But certainly, on the field, he leads well.”
De Kock also finished as the leading run-scorer in the series, with a match-winning century in Cape Town and a fifty at the Wanderers and was named player of the series. He was also innovative as captain, most notably when Tabraiz Shamsi was bowling. De Kock kept a slip in place in Cape Town, which resulted in the dismissal of Eoin Morgan and a legslip at Johannesburg, who aided in getting rid of Joe Root, and Boucher was impressed with de Kock’s ability to read the match situation and respond accordingly.
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“We always knew that Quinny has got a very smart cricketing brain. He had a couple of different field placings which I thought were good and he was thinking out of the box,” Boucher said. “Quinny is unique and I think the uniqueness of him can work wonders in a dressing room like this because we’ve got a unique set-up as well.”
In a brief post-match television interview, de Kock revealed that not much had changed about his approach or his game plan and that he benefitted from having a group of players who he could consult on the field. That included Rassie van der Dussen, now considered a senior member of the team after just a year in the international game, and Temba Bavuma and Jon-Jon Smuts, both franchise captains on the domestic scene. The collective core of experience and the freshness of young players created a team atmosphere that de Kock enjoyed being part of. “The energy really stood out for me,” de Kock said.
Although South Africa were disappointed with their batting performance in Johannesburg and Boucher thought they were “30-40 runs short”, they were satisfied with what the series showed them about their depth. Boucher singled out the performances of 21-year-old quick Lutho Sipamla, who took 1 for 42 in 9.2 overs at the Wanderers, and Bavuma, who was South Africa’s second-highest-scorer, as showing good signs for the future.
“I thought Lutho bowled really well today,” Boucher said. “And Temba had a good knock in Cape Town, which was probably deserving of a hundred although you’re going to say he was two [too?] short. [Cue awkward pun laughter] But the way he came in, he dominated from the first ball he faced, which was great to see. He looks the part in that No.3 position. Today he got out lbw, but that happens. He is one of the pluses that I’ve seen in this series.”
At the same time, Boucher acknowledged that South Africa still have a lot of work to do before they are ready for the T20 World Cup and will use the Australia series to experiment further.
“All the white-ball cricket from now up until the World Cup is giving guys opportunities and seeing what they can do in pressure situations,” he said. “We are trying to look ahead to a World Cup in Australia and we are looking at different options that we’ve got. We will use the next three games against Australia to find some answers and ask some questions.”