Cape Town - Understandably in his earliest days as an international cricketer, learned critics were reluctant to compare Quinton de Kock too hastily to Australian legend and fellow-batsman/wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist.
After all, how many ultimately ill-judged, crazily premature instances of “next Bradman”, for instance, have there been?
But as the prodigiously talented, 24-year-old De Kock completed his third Test century (101) at Newlands on Tuesday, the second morning of the second Test against Sri Lanka, the statistical match-up with Gilchrist, now 45 and quite long-retired, seems increasingly intriguing and pertinent.
Naturally De Kock has an awfully long way to go before he can match the full statistical weight of “Gilly”, even if he also has plenty of time on his side if that is ever to occur. (Don’t whisper it too loudly, but might he even eclipse him?)
Gilchrist ended his roughly 12-year international career in March 2008 sporting 5 570 Test runs at an average of 47.60 and strike rate of 81.95, and with 9 619 one-day international runs (from a formidable 287 games) at 35.89; strike rate 96.94.
So the baby-faced, uncomplicated De Kock, for the next several years, is still going to have to go some, as they say.
But he also seems so much more than just “up and running” in the race, doesn’t he?
On day one of the current Test, Johannesburg-born De Kock completed the landmark of 1,000 personal runs in the format, fifth fastest South African to hit the figure, and on Tuesday he duly strode on, in typically swift and free-spirited style, from an unbeaten 68 overnight to his third ton in his 15th Test.
That took him to 1 060 runs, upon dismissal, at 53.00, and it was irresistible to glance at where the great Gilchrist stood after 15 Tests (bearing in mind that in-form De Kock may still have a second knock at Newlands).
They are not far apart at all, with the former showing a better average, and the latter more runs: at that 15-Test juncture in his five-day career, Gilchrist had amassed 992 runs at 58.35, with one less century (two) than De Kock has bagged.
In each case, No 7 has been the overwhelmingly regular stationing in the order, and ditto opening spots in the abbreviated arena.
Speaking of the other major format, De Kock has played 69 ODIs as things stand, with 2 850 runs at 43.84 and a smouldering strike rate of 94.55 which pushes Gilchrist’s own figure hard.
He has compiled a particularly impressive 11 centuries and eight half-tons; after as many ODIs, Gilchrist showed fewer than half that tally of three-figure scores (five), though the same number of half-centuries as the South African.
Which of the pair ends up looking the premier international cricketer, statistically speaking, remains to be seen, and ought not to be apparent for many years yet until De Kock eventually calls time on his currently only booming career.
What we already know is that they appear an increasingly worthy match-up for talent, thrill factor and instinctively effervescent attitude to the game …
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