De Kock free to play against NZ
Quinton de Kock's disciplinary hearing for allegedly pushing an opposition player in a first-class match will not take place before next Wednesday, which has cleared him to play in the first two ODIs against New Zealand. Gary Kirsten confirmed de Kock will keep in all the matches he plays in the series.
To help de Kock prepare for his fifty-over international debut, team management roped in the services of Mark Boucher, who trained with him at Claremont Cricket Club on Thursday. "When Mark retired I said to him that his experience in international cricket is something I wouldn't want to turn away," Kirsten said. "I think he has a lot to offer. We felt the perfect place for him would be to be with a young keeper like Quinton, to spend some time with him and give him and understanding not only of the skills required but the pressures of international competition."
Mentoring de Kock also seems to be part of integrating him into the national structures because he has only emerged on the circuit quite recently. De Kock is a former South Africa Under-19s player but this is first season contracted to a franchise and Kirsten admitted he does not know much about the 20-year-old. "I've met this guy once before and the longest conversation I had with him was one minute," he said.
Kirsten's assistant, Russell Domingo, may have slightly more information on the youngster. Domingo coached the national side during de Kock's debut: the T20 series against New Zealand in which he also donned the gloves. All evidence suggests de Kock has been earmarked as a permanent replacement for AB de Villiers, who seems set to give up wicketkeeping in limited-overs. "We want to give AB a chance to just be the captain," Kirsten said.
"We feel that to captain, bat at No.4 and keep is a very hard task. It's something that we spoke about even before he started the role because I was concerned that it was going to be too much to ask of him. He really wants to focus his attention on his captaincy."
De Villiers was named South Africa's limited-overs captain in July 2011. He missed his inaugural series as leader against Australia in late 2011 because of injury and Hashim Amla stood in for him. De Villiers was first in charge for the 3-2 win over Sri Lanka last January. He also captained in the T20 and ODI series in England and the World T20 in Sri Lanka. He kept wicket in all those matches but did not play the T20 series against New Zealand, citing fatigue and a focus on his Test keeping.
It has now emerged that de Villiers also finds wicket-keeping in ODIs too taxing on his chronically bad back and does not feel he has enough of a grip on the demands of captaincy to do both jobs. "He has had all this on his shoulders," Kirsten said. "He feels keeping in 50 overs is more intense than in a Test match and he just needs to understand how he is going to go about captaining this team."
Some of the strategies de Villiers will have to get his head around are the floating batting line-up and the possibility of changing personnel. Both are tactics Kirsten will continue with, although he has indicated he may rein in the former. "We've tried to rotate the batting order, we feel we need to find a middle road there," he said. "We are certainly going to be flexible. We believe that is the way forward but, at the same time, we cannot be silly about it."
Kirsten suggested that Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, the two quicks who play all three formats for South Africa, will be rested for some of the three ODIs because the three-Test series against Pakistan is only two weeks away. "Test cricket is our number one and we want to make sure we pick a full strength team in whatever Test we play. We don't rest players and rotate at that level," he said. "With the other versions, because there is a lot of cricket, something has to give. These guys are fit enough to play every game but I want them mentally 100 percent ready to deliver."
Although Kirsten's main emphasis is on Test cricket, South Africa will not have as taxing a year as they did in 2012. Their only away tour in which they will play in the longest format is to the UAE to face Pakistan in October.
Contrastingly, South Africa play much more ODI cricket this year. Eight matches at home (three against New Zealand, five against Pakistan) will be followed by the Champions Trophy and a limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka. With one eye on ICC silverware, Kirsten indicated the 50-over game will come into the spotlight in 2013, where he hopes South Africa can step up.
"We would like to perform at a higher level than we have done so far," he said. "We've been ok but we haven't been outstanding. We've got a great opportunity this year so there will be a lot more emphasis on ODI cricket this year."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent