Moments after South Africa lost the first Test at Centurion to India by 113 runs, the cricketing world was party to a surprise as one of South Africa’s most talented players announced his retirement from Test cricket with immediate effect. Quinton de Kock was part of a core group of South African players over the past decade and was expected to have a long and memorable career in the game. But his decision to retire on such short notice, ostensibly to focus on his family, has thrown the Proteas dressing room into disarray amid a historic series with India.
As one of South African cricket’s best players retires from the game, we take a look at his career and what the future holds for the Proteas batsman:
Quinton de Kock made his international debut in 2012 in the series against New Zealand after shining for the U19 side in the World Cup earlier in the year. However, unlike many talents who impress the world on debut, de Kock struggled early on, never really cementing his place in the team. It was only two years after his debut that he found a regular place in the Test squad.
Quinton’s moment of greatness came in 2016, when he scored five consecutive half-centuries in a row, culminating in a hundred against Australia at Hobart. His style of play as well as the performance with the gloves behind the wicket evoked comparisons with the legendary Australian keeper Adam Gilchrist.
In a career spanning seven years, de Kock has accumulated 3300 runs in 54 innings at an average of 38.82. Among the current South African squad, only Dean Elgar has more runs. His high score of 141 not out came against the West Indies last year, when the Proteas swept the two-match Test series in the Caribbean. Quinton finished his red-ball career with six centuries and 22 fifties, an impressive feat for any wicketkeeper-batsman in the gruelling format.
Behind the gloves, de Kock filled the void that the legendary AB de Villiers left in 2015. Featuring regularly behind the wickets, de Kock has 232 dismissals to his credit in his short career. That includes 221 catches – mostly off the outstanding Proteas pace lineup and a further 11 stumpings. With 2.367 dismissals per innings, he has the highest average among the Top 25 wicketkeepers, even surpassing the likes of Mark Boucher and Adam Gilchrist.
WHITE BALL CRICKET
Even though a promising Test career has come to an early end, de Kock is likely to be a part of white-ball cricket for a long time, following the footsteps of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and AB de Villiers. With sufficient time left for the T20 World Cup to be held later this year, the Proteas management will be hoping for a fully fit and in-form de Kock to be an integral part of the squad. He also holds the record for the fastest T20 half-century for the Proteas, scoring it in just 17 deliveries against England in 2020.
Quinton de Kock has also proved his mettle in the Indian T20 League, where he scored 2256 runs in 77 matches at an average of 33.83 and a strike rate of 130.93. For the past three years, de Kock has been a part of Team Mumbai, where he finished the 2019 season as the team’s top scorer. With a substantial part of his year now free due to retirement from the longest format of the game, de Kock has the chance to focus more on franchise cricket across the world.
A huge controversy broke out last year when de Kock was the only player among the squad to refuse to take a knee in solidarity against racism. The harsh stance taken by the Cricket South Africa board, along with the last-minute notice given to the team has led to the wicketkeeper missing the World Cup game against Windies. De Cock was alone in his refusal to take the knee, leading to a lot of controversy surrounding the player’s views and the broader issue of racism in South African cricket.
De Kock joins a long list of players in recent times to retire from the longest format of the game while continuing to be a part of white-ball cricket. While players should have the freedom to decide upon their career, the choice of many players to shift away from cricket’s traditional format is forcing many former players to speak out against the practice. The huge sums of money offered by franchise cricket, along with the fast-paced action it offers to fans are continuing the decline of Test cricket.
IMPACT ON THE SERIES
South Africa were already a struggling team before the announcement of Quinton’s retirement. Virat Kohli’s men have won an emphatic victory over the Proteas in the first Test, with Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami tearing through their batting lineup. Although he struggled in the first Test, his 100-minutes stand at Centurion was effective in delaying India’s victory. With his sudden retirement, South Africa have the task of filling up the wicketkeeper slot. Kyle Verreynne will don the gloves for the second Test while the management searches for a more long-term replacement.
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