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De Kock is taking his last dance more ‘personally’ than Michael Jordan

Last updated on 24 Oct 2023 | 04:47 PM
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De Kock is taking his last dance more ‘personally’ than Michael Jordan

The wicketkeeper-batter is now the only South African to score three centuries in a single World Cup

“Yeh aapki zindagi ki aakhri race saabit ho sakti hai. Daudunga bhi waise hi.”

Anyone who has watched Bhaag Milkha Bhaag would remember the aforementioned line. There’s a scene at the end of the movie where Farhan Akhtar (playing the role of the late Milkha Singh) is preparing for a race in Pakistan and is interrupted by a Pakistani athletics coach, who mocks him by saying this could very well be his last race. To which Milkha Singh responds he would run like this is his final race.

Well, that wasn’t his last race. But this is Quinton de Kock’s last 50-over World Cup, and the wicketkeeper-batter is on a mission to make it a memorable one. It’s only been five games, but de Kock has already smashed three centuries - the most for a South African batter in a World Cup. The left-hander will be retiring from the format after this showpiece event and wants to leave no stone unturned. 

What we witnessed at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday (October 24) was a proper QdK special. The 30-year-old smoked 15 fours and seven maximums in his 140-ball 174, his second-highest score in ODIs, and gave Bangladesh a beating to remember. In the process, de Kock also became the first wicketkeeper-batter to score a 150 in the World Cup. Overall as well, this was his third 150-plus score, most for a wicketkeeper-batter in ODIs.

In Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, and Marco Jansen, the Proteas have the most fearsome middle-order in the 2023 World Cup, but what de Kock has been doing at the top hasn’t gone unnoticed. With 407 runs in five innings at an average of 81.40 and a strike rate of 114.97, the opener is now the leading run-scorer in the tournament. If you have watched him bat in the last few weeks, it would be impossible for you to digest that this is his last ODI series.

De Kock started the event with scores of 100 and 109 against Australia and Sri Lanka respectively but could only manage 24 runs in the next two innings against the Netherlands and England. He has often been blamed for blowing hot and cold in big tournaments and some of them even predicted that we might have already seen the best of him in the first two games, but de Kock seems to be on a mission to prove everyone wrong.

The Wankhede surface was as good as they come and he would have been disappointed to miss out against England last weekend, but boy, did he make up for that against Bangladesh. The man looked in complete control from the moment he walked out to bat. He got off the mark with a fierce cut shot and didn’t look back thereafter. 

QdK’s knock wasn’t just about mad hitting. He operated at a strike rate of 100 in the first powerplay, and nothing much changed in the middle overs as well, scoring 93 off 92 deliveries. South Africa did lose two early wickets, so it was important for de Kock to hang around for a while. He first put on 131 runs with Aiden Markram (69-ball 60) and then got 142 runs with dangerous Heinrich Klaasen (49-ball 90).

It was Klaasen who first took the attack to Bangladesh and allowed de Kock to complete his 20th century, but once the milestone was achieved, the latter went crazy. In the death overs (41-50), de Kock smacked 57 off 24 deliveries, as South Africa collected 144 runs in that period and posted a total of 382/5. Bangladesh was never going to chase it down. 

What makes de Kock dangerous is that he can hit good balls for boundaries. If you look at the above beehive, you will know how tough it is to bowl to someone like him. Anything down the leg or on stumps, he will flick or pull you. Anything wide, he will happily cut or play through covers. What’s more, de Kock had a strike rate of more than 100 on deliveries pitched on the fourth-fifth-stump line. 

South Africa have been the best batting side in this World Cup and QdK has played a massive role in that. In three of the five games, he has given the middle-order a superb platform and Klaasen and Co. have pounced on it in some style. As a result, the Proteas have three 380-plus totals in this showpiece event.

De Kock has been equally good against pace and spin, averaging close to 80 and striking at more than 100 against both bowling types. Furthermore, he has a strike rate of 112.4 on deliveries pitched on good length against fast bowlers, and that talks about his capability of hitting good balls for boundaries. The opener has played almost all shots available in the book and scored runs all around the ground, as the below wagon wheel reflects.

He might be producing dream numbers, but the reality is we won’t see QdK playing the 50-over format after the World Cup. "I'm not going to speak on behalf of everyone. For myself, I find it quite tiring, but I'm sure there's still a lot of guys, a lot of youngsters coming through from school, who would love to play this format," he said about ODIs.

When he announced he would be retiring from ODIs, the wicketkeeper-batter faced a lot of criticism, with many people blaming him for being money-minded. "T20 events - I am not going to deny that there is a lot of money and coming to the end of your career, guys want to get their final top-up before their career finishes. Any normal person would do it anyway. If I was really not that loyal, I would have done it five years ago when it really took off.”

He has often been made a scapegoat in the past and regularly been criticized for not being committed enough to South African cricket, but his numbers tell a different story. By the end of the World Cup, de Kock could very well become South Africa’s fifth-highest run-getter. Amongst South Africans who have scored at least 3000 runs in ODIs, he has the fourth-best average (46.03).

If you want to talk about his commitment to South African cricket, QdK wouldn’t have been disappointed the way he looked after getting out in the series decider against Australia in September. If he wasn’t committed enough, de Kock wouldn’t have celebrated his ton against Sri Lanka with a roaring fist pump. After all, that was his first ODI century in more than 20 months. 

He is underappreciated but also unpredictable. You don’t know what he is going to do in the future, but both South Africa and QdK are focusing only on the present at the moment, and it seems to be going well for both parties. This is Quinton de Kock’s last dance in the format, and he seems to be taking it more ‘personally’ than Michael Jordan.

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