Over the past few months, there has been some discussion over where Quinton de Kock should bat in the Proteas Test team and whether he should drop the gloves and open the batting.
Honestly, I fail to understand how people think someone who is a specialized lower order batsman should open the batting in Test Cricket. I just simply do not understand the logic behind it.
Opening the batting is not easy, it’s not meant to be, and it’s for this reason teams are struggling to find openers that can survive at the top.
England haven’t been able to find a Test opener since Alastair Cook retired in 2017, and South Africa only found one after Graeme Smith’s retirement at the end of 2017, in Aiden Markram, but even he, a genuine Test opener is struggling for runs and mental application at the moment.
It therefore leaves me perplexed when people think Quinton de Kock, the swashbuckling lower order batsmen, and the best wicket-keeper in South Africa and quite possibly the world, should drop the gloves and open the batting.
He is the best batsman in the team is the reasoning I am constantly hearing for why he should be batting up the order. That doesn’t in any way, shape or form take into account the current players they have in the team, or where Quinton has been successful for the majority of his career, batting at seven.
South Africa gave Quinton the opportunity to bat higher up the order in their terrible tour of England in 2017. His scores while batting at four were 68, 1, 17 & 5. Not really a great return. Think about how much more difficult it would be to open the batting with a new cherry, and fresh bowlers.
The opening spot in Test Cricket is the toughest place to bat, and is a highly specialized position, not anyone can just fill that role.
Look at how England’s Jason Roy struggled in that position in the Ashes this past British summer. Despite opening in the shorter format, he is not a genuine Test opener and found out the hard way that both formats require different techniques, and he was quite simply not up for the challenge.
If any of that sounds familiar to you, you would hopefully be as worried as I am about anyone suggesting Quinton should open the batting in Test Cricket.
Why are all those who want to see Quinton opening in Tests so quick to discard Aiden Markram or Dean Elgar? South Africa have finally found an opening duo they are happy with so why would they want to disrupt the team dynamic that they searched long and hard to find.
Markram has hit a dip in form at the moment, but we know he has what it takes to survive at this level. His brilliant century against Australia in the face of adversity in the 1st Test in 2018 was testament to his skill. His troubles in the subcontinent are not career-ending, they are career-building. He will learn from his troubles and use them to grow as a more all-round cricketer. This will only benefit the team in the long run.
Wicket-keeping is also an incredibly important role in Test Cricket. India showed this by deciding to play the experienced Wriddhiman Saha over the young and inexperienced Rishabh Pant in the currently ongoing Test series against South Africa, and his experience is proving to be priceless behind the stumps. He’s taken some incredible catches, and you have to wonder if a more inexperienced keeper would have managed the same. The same can then be said for a young and inexperienced player like Heinrich Klaasen taking on the gloves in Tests.
South African Cricket has gone through many changes with retirements, and with the World Test Championship in its first year, the Proteas don’t need any more disruptions to their team.
Quinton de Kock is not a Test opening batsman. He needs to stay where he has the best opportunity to perform, which then helps the team, and that’s at seven. Perhaps what the team needs to do is to find actual batsmen that can actually bat in the top order and leave the very successful lower order alone.
Good thing for them they have the likes of Zubayr Hamza and Rassie van der Dussen waiting in the wings.