No rest for the wicket: De Kock doesn’t need a breather
With his rediscovered form, resting him might be a bad idea - and it makes sense to keep the busiest players as fresh as possible
September. That’s the only full month since SA’s tour to Sri Lanka in July that Quinton de Kock hasn’t played any cricket.
He’s been involved in 29 games in the past seven months; six if you don’t count September.
We can’t blame the Indian Premier League (IPL) this time: all those matches were for SA and the Cape Town Blitz.
As a wicketkeeper, De Kock’s work is a long way from done even if he gets out first ball. In the five Tests he has played since July alone he has been on the field for about 3,650 minutes.
That’s almost 61 hours spent crouching behind the stumps or tapping a bat at the crease.
Add the 24 white-ball games, all the hours of training and being trapped in airplanes, and it’s not difficult to see the argument in favour of SA deciding to rest De Kock for the first two one-day internationals against Pakistan.
Thing is, he spent the most recent 228 minutes at the crease, in the third Test at the Wanderers at the weekend, scoring 129 – his first century for SA in any format in 39 innings since October 2017.
Will not playing at St George’s Park this past weekend and Kingsmead on Tuesday threaten his newly rediscovered form?
Now that he’s back on the bike, shouldn’t he keep riding it?
Herschelle Gibbs didn’t leave room for doubt about what he thought: “The guys get rested too easily these days. He’s only 26 years old – yes, he should be playing for sure. Also, the Tests against Pakistan were done in three days. That’s plenty of days off.
“There’s no point resting him.”
SA beat Pakistan before tea on the third day at Centurion, only 9.5 overs into the fourth at Newlands, and after 25.4 overs on the fourth day at the Wanderers. The series lasted, effectively, less than 25 of the scheduled 45 sessions.
De Kock has, then, enjoyed a lighter workload in the past four weeks than he might have had Pakistan taken the game deeper.
That can’t hurt him in wear-and-tear terms.
Neither can his two days off and the training and travel time he will avoid.
With an IPL coming and a World Cup to follow – and 10 games in all formats against Sri Lanka before that – it makes sense to keep the busiest players as fresh as possible.
Dale Steyn was also put on ice for the Port Elizabeth match on Saturday and the Durban ODI on Tuesday.
But he’s 35, has had a recent history of serious injury, and will be worth more than his weight in gold in sheer presence for SA at the World Cup.
Whether someone as plainly fuelled by instinct as De Kock will be helped or hampered by being taken out of the mix is more difficult to know.
We should find out on January 25, when he is due back for the third ODI at Centurion.