ICC World Cup 2019: Can Quinton de Kock bat South Africa to an elusive title?
When the World Cup 2019 starts in May on English soil, South Africa will again have the chance to emerge as the winners for the first time. But World Cup glory has remained elusive despite the country having been tournament favourites on several occasions.
This year, hosts England are the favourites, with pundits choosing India and Australia as their next bets. South Africa will be happy to fly under the radar and ease their way into the tournament.
They can prove to be a dangerous side though, and Quinton de Kock could have a big role to play in that.
De Kock’s form in 2019
On the batting front, the Proteas rest their hopes on a few players, with opening batsman De Kock standing out. He heads into his second World Cup in superb form. After a quiet 2018, he has bounced back in plenty of time for the showpiece event.
De Kock has hit 469 runs in eight ODI innings this year at an average of 58.63. Five of his scores have been in excess of 50.
The left-hander started the year with a Test century against Pakistan in January, after a two-year hiatus. In the five-match ODI series against Sri Lanka in March, he hit a century and three half-centuries.
Having started the year on an almost perfect note, De Kock moved on to play for the Mumbai Indians in the IPL in April. He starred in his team’s title run, ending as the third-highest run scorer of the tournament with 529 runs.
Stroke-making around the ground
De Kock has the rare ability to hit the ball 360 degrees, sending the ball to the point, cover and square-leg boundaries with equal ease.
Even opposition bowlers are impressed with this ability. "He picks up length at a ridiculous speed," said England’s Liam Plunkett to the Cricket Monthly in May 2017. "He hits the ball so hard for a guy who isn't so big but he also has very delicate hands and plays that late-cut shot very well. He doesn't need much width to cut so as a bowler you want to hit the top of his middle stump. But if you get the length wrong he whips you over mid-wicket. He's got to be one of the most challenging guys to bowl to in international cricket."
Plunkett is set to bowl to De Kock in the World Cup’s opening match on May 30, which pits England against South Africa. His comments show how highly respected the 26-year-old is.
The batsman will be looking to make up for a poor showing in World Cup 2015, where he was only able to score 145 runs in eight matches. At this year's edition, he will be experienced enough to deal with the inevitable pressure.
The bowling attack
De Kock and the rest of the batting order are well-supported by the bowlers, with South Africa arguably boasting the best bowling attack in the tournament.
Dale Steyn will spearhead the pace bowlers in his last World Cup, with Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi rounding out the three-man attack.
While they are a formidable trio, South Africa will hope that their bodies hold out for the seven weeks of the tournament. Ngidi has recently come back from an injury, while Steyn and Rabada withdrew from the IPL as a precaution.
Imran Tahir, meanwhile, is the first-choice spinner. In the 2015 World Cup Tahir claimed 15 wickets at an average of 21.53, and the Proteas will hope that he can replicate his success in 2019.
All-rounders Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorious and Chris Morris complete the bowling options.
While the bowlers are brimming with confidence, the batting line-up is less settled. It is still uncertain who De Kock’s opening partner will be. There are also concerns that the batting line-up may be too short.
World Cup win in De Kock’s sight
De Kock will be vital to South Africa’s hopes of reaching the final of the World Cup this year. If he bats them to a triumph, it will undoubtedly be the highlight of his already impressive career.