There is no parallel, there is no immediate aftermath to be worried about either. He was anyway about to go on paternity leave and set to miss the last two Tests against India. However, it is the larger picture that has become a damning indictment of what the future holds for South African cricket or cricket in general. It is just a decision that might seem surprising but if you would have followed QDK’s career trajectory, it was always brewing.
But none of that can deny the fact that Quinton de Kock wasn’t just a great wicket-keeper but an excellent batter whose credibility puts down the colour of the cricket ball to a mere aphorism. In a bowling era, QDK averaged 38.82 in Tests while taking 221 catches behind the stumps. Those are some really impactful numbers and stood as a beckon of hope for the Saffers even though the governing body was deeply embroiled in a spiral of controversies.
Whatever success de Kock has achieved at the international level across formats was a direct result of a process - which he may not be articulative enough to explain - but gives in fundamentally. It is always getting the best out of his God-given talent and an ability to work hard when no one is watching, but sometimes, his facial expressions, or the lack of it, gives the indication of a dispirited individual, who is just not there.
"This is not a decision that I have come to very easily," de Kock was quoted as saying in a CSA statement. "I have taken a lot of time to think about what my future looks like and what needs to take priority in my life now that Sasha and I are about to welcome our first child into this world and look to grow our family beyond that. My family is everything to me and I want to have the time and space to be able to be with them during this new and exciting chapter of our lives.”
This is a perfectly reasonable explanation. After all, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be with your wife and kids over a job of playing cricket but read between the lines, you wouldn’t fault QDK just being drained out completely. South Africa have lost great talents in the past and continued to lend their services in the T20 leagues around the world. They are not wrong but the system is and not protecting players’ interest has landed Cricket South Africa at such a juncture where they are nowhere to hide.
Faf du Plessis scored runs like a machine in the CPL and IPL yet didn’t find a place in the World Cup squad. He had announced his retirement from Tests but was always available for the limited-overs cricket. Imran Tahir has been doing great things, but never got an explanation of why he was not being picked. No explanation would clearly provide logic to how come a player of Temba Bavuma’s calibre has got to the limited-overs captaincy role. It is complete chaos that South Africa were pushed to design their sojourn.
There were politics too - some real ones. The release of the Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) report stated that CSA’s Director of Cricket Graeme Smith and men's team's head coach Mark Boucher had engaged in prejudicial and discriminatory conduct on the basis of race. As was AB de Villiers, who was summoned for his insistence as the skipper of the South African side that Dean Elgar and not Khaya Zondo should take the place of JP Duminy for the deciding match of an ODI series in India in October 2015.
If you look at it in retrospection and in relation to what has already happened to South African cricket in the last decade, it is easy to come to the conclusion that playing cricket peacefully without worrying about the future is as fruitless a phenomenon as there is. If the board doesn’t commit to it, players would have to find ways and hence, QDK’s decision needs to be seen from that point of view.
"I love Test cricket and I love representing my country and all that it comes with. I've enjoyed the ups and the downs, the celebrations, and even the disappointments, but now I've found something that I love even more. In life, you can buy almost everything except for time, and right now, it's time to do right by the people that mean the most to me.”
Well, this is not to say that QDK is perfect. He opted not to take a knee after the board made it compulsory for players in the T20 World Cup, citing he doesn’t believe in gestures, but he had his support for a wounded friend in Afghanistan with a three-figure salute and continuously supporting Rhino Conservation through symbols. Of course, he made a transitory comeback and apologized but a scar that had already been created was too difficult to heal from there. Its impact wouldn’t be easy to wipe out in totality.
But the disruption has already touched the zenith and it also started to tell a story of its own.
No one knows what is the solution for this but bring out that cliché, world cricket needs South Africa as much as South Africa need the cricketing world to show them their support. That symbiotic relationship would be fundamental to how South Africa recover and get back on its feet again.