Cape Town – South Africa must guard against pushing young batsman/wicketkeeper phenomenon Quinton de Kock too hard, too quickly, says glove-work predecessor Mark Boucher.
The retired multiple record-holder in international cricket was speaking at the launch on Monday of the Momentum Cricket Sixes, to take place at Claremont Cricket Club here on December 14.
Boucher, national captain Graeme Smith and Cape Cobras and former Proteas stalwart Justin Kemp are key figureheads of the 12-team tournament, which offers social cricketers the chance to rub shoulders on the field with renowned names like Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Smith from the present, plus past icons Gary Kirsten, Jonty Rhodes and Shaun Pollock.
He told Sport24 he was “very happy with the current situation” of the 20-year-old De Kock wearing the gloves for the Proteas in the two one-day formats, and more seasoned superstar AB de Villiers doing the job at Test level.
“I was always the one who said I didn’t think AB should be ‘keeping in one-day cricket. I just don’t think it is necessary, especially being the (ODI) captain; it is a tough job.
“It’s not that I’m saying he should never ‘keep in one-day cricket again: if we get into a situation where maybe it’s a World Cup final and we want to play an extra batsman and Quinny is out of form or something like that, then you’ve still got that option.
“As far as I’m concerned only one man should be ‘keeping for us in Test cricket at the moment and that is AB. He’s the one best equipped for that job and also he gives you another option considering he both bats and ‘keeps.
“If AB gets injured, then you’ve got someone like Thami (Tsolekile) to still back him up in the Test arena, while in the one-day stuff Quinny’s done a decent job so far.
“I’m always very wary of pushing a guy too early; already there are people comparing him to Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards, Jacques Kallis and the like. To them I’d say ‘just pump the brakes a bit; let’s give the guy a fair chance’.
“He needs to really get used to international cricket before you start making those comparisons. You can mess up a youngster’s career.
“We must be clever with him; not push too hard too early. He’s still finding his feet and must be allowed to do so.
“Yes, he’s had a nice time, got a good hundred the other day and some 20s and 30s ... he is going to make mistakes; he is very raw. But as long as he’s in the right hands and is mentored the right way then he can certainly go from strength to strength.”
Turning to more specifically technical issues, Boucher said: “I can’t say he’s not a ‘natural’ wicketkeeper as such, because he’s got fine hands, but I think his foot movement is not that natural for a ‘keeper. There are areas he does need work on, and help with.
“But I really enjoyed his interview the other day where he said he appreciated how much extra work he needed to put in. That was music to my ears, because it is still a massive step up from franchise to international cricket.
“So I feel we’re doing it the right way at the moment. For me the most important format of the game is Test cricket and the guy ‘keeping there (De Villiers) must stay there for a long time if we’re to keep that No 1 spot. It does give us great extra options.”
Is De Kock coming through as a limited-overs wicketkeeper significantly easing De Villiers’s burden?
“Well, a lot of people say ‘keeping in Test cricket must be hard. I don’t actually think it is as hard as people think,” Boucher revealed.
“In one-day cricket you are down, up, running to the stumps repeatedly; that can be very hard on the body. Yes, there will be some innings where you are in the field a helluva long time, but I still feel one-day activity, perhaps three times in a week, is more of a strain and requires more recovery time for your body.
“So with AB now not ‘keeping in one-day cricket, it is giving his back suitable time to recover; you’ll probably find he’s at his happiest place at the moment with regards to his body, because he’s getting that rest. He’s more than fit enough to the do the Test job of batting and ‘keeping.”
Boucher confirmed he would be willing to assist Cricket South Africa and by extension De Kock should they require his valuable mentoring services.
“There has been talk, yes ... but Cricket South Africa have had their own problems to sort out lately. I’ll just wait in the background and if they want me, I’ll be glad to step in and assist.
“Ultimately Quinny’s got to feel comfortable working with me as well. If he says he’s keen, then I’d obviously love to help him out.”
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