Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Heavy is the head that wears the crown


Barring any surprising revelations, Quinton de Kock is set to be - for the foreseeable future - South Africa's captain in all three formats. He is also set to remain the wicket keeper in all formats. If you wanted to add a bit more work to his load, he is also likely going to be South Africa's best batsman in all three formats.

It was 21st century philosopher, Kanye West who once proclaimed that "No one man should have all this power", and boy oh boy does de Kock have a lot of power as of now. It could be argued that never before have the fortunes of the national team rested so much in the hands of one man. Sure, Graeme Smith was the captain of the side in all three formats, but he was never the best batsman in the team, nor did he have the most important fielding role in the team. The only man who has experienced this level of pressure for any extended period of time was Zimbabwean great, Andy Flower. While it could be argued that Flower's performances were hardly influenced by all of that responsibility (his overall Test average of 51.55 compares well to his captain's average of 49.29), it is more pertinent to realise that
 - He was only captain for two formats. de Kock will lead the national outfit in three different formats
 - His ODI record as captain (average of 25) was a far cry from his overall ODI average of 35.
 - The pressure of captaining Zimbabwean cricket is vastly different to the pressure of captaining the Proteas.

Of course, none of this is to say that de Kock shouldn't be the captain of all three formats. Having your power centralized seems to be the new wave in world cricket, with India, New Zealand, and until a rather embarassing episode with some sandpaper, Australia all having one man lead them in all three formats. If anything, given the embarassment of riches at the wicket-keeper position, it seems excessive to have de Kock also keep wicket.

At first glance, Quinton de Kock doesn't seem the archetypical South African captain. At 5'7, he is by some distance the shortest man to ever captain South Africa in any of our major national sporting codes. This is no coincidence. Stereotypes are dangerous, but as a nation, South Africa has tended to prefer larger than life, imposing figures to be our leaders of men. You can see it in our cricket past captains. Hansie Cronje, Graeme Smith and Shaun Pollock were all 6'4 and as imposing as a barn door. Even in football, a game where size doesn't even immediately scream a limiting factor, South Africa's three most tenured captains were Neil Tovey, Lucas Radebe and Aaron Mokoena are all hulking centre-backs. More than the physical, Quinton's approach to the game also doesn't exactly shout South African captain. Often times quiet and unassuming, it's often seemed like he'd rather be at an illegal nuclear Testing facility than in an interview. It should be noted that de Kock probably was not the first choice for this role as leading man. What else could the move to make Aiden Markram captain in Faf du Plessis' absence after he'd played about two ODI games be interpreted as other than a move to shore up a successor? Unfortunately, Markram has been both injured and out of form for the better part of two years, which has caused a vacuum which de Kock would be hoping to convincingly fill.

There is a lot of pressure on the once wonder boy to become the leading man. You can be certain though that he will try his utmost best to fill the role ably.

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