Bavuma ‘wasn’t in the loop’ about de Kock’s ODI retirement

South Africa’s ODI captain Temba Bavuma was not aware of his opening partner Quinton de Kock’s decision to retire from the format until the official announcement was made at the unveiling of the World Cup squad on Tuesday. De Kock will step away from the 50-over cricket after this year’s World Cup, but remains available for T20Is, albeit not for every international series.

“I wasn’t in the loop, as per his thinking or decision. With Quinny, at times, you can expect anything,” Bavuma said, ahead of South Africa’s first ODI against Australia in Bloemfontein. “It doesn’t change how we see the guy. It’s always been a pleasure playing with Quinton from our Under-15 days at school. He is an incredible player, talented; too much talent. He will be a big loss to South Africa at least in the ODI stuff.”

Bauvma and de Kock’s playing days date back to their time as schoolboys in Johannesburg and at the Lions franchise. De Kock made international debuts in all three formats before Bavuma, and also captained South Africa before Bavuma, who has long sought de Kock’s counsel on-field. “He is one of the guys I lean on from a tactical point of view. Not having him within the space is going to be a bit of a challenge but it’s something we will have to overcome,” Bavuma said.

De Kock’s retirement from ODIs comes as he has been in relatively lean form in the format – with only 133 runs in five matches this year – but at his best in the team environment, according to Bavuma. “This year is the freest I have ever seen him be in and around the team. He has been a lot more bubblier, always cracking jokes and starting banter within the guys,” Bavuma said, hinting that attitude may come from knowing that he won’t be playing for much longer. “I guess, maybe he made the decision a long time ago and it was about finding the right time to let everyone know. He has chosen his route, he is going to go the T20 route – the format he has succeeded quite well in. All we can do is wish him the best.”
De Kock already plays in the IPL, SA20 and MLC and has recently signed with Melbourne Renegades for the upcoming BBL, where he is available for eight games between December 10 and January 5. That means he will miss South Africa’s series against India – their only scheduled matches in the format before next year’s T20 World Cup, for which de Kock is available for selection. In previous administrations, it would have been obligatory for de Kock to play in the India series to be in contention for the World Cup. But, on Tuesday, South Africa’s coach Rob Walter explained that CSA would have to be content with allowing players to get game time in overseas leagues or face the reality that “players will leave the international game and follow the leagues,” which points to a major change in policy. Bavuma spoke about it as a positive move, which demonstrates CSA’s response to changing times.

“It’s become very dynamic and it’s important for international teams to adapt through that ever-changing landscape and try and find ways to stay ahead of that trend,” he said. “Credit to CSA and the South African Cricketers’ Association – they have taken note of that. There have been discussions around how we can position ourselves a lot better in terms of contracting players, making sure we still have access to our best players but also not compromising on players’ financial earning ability outside our own shores. That’s the way cricket is going. Gone are the days when we were inflexible and fighting against that change.”

Whether that means more players will follow de Kock’s footsteps remains to be seen, but the landscape is likely to continue shifting as the bilateral calendar shrinks, something Australia’s captain Mitchell Marsh also recognised. “The landscape of cricket is changing and there are a lot of T20 formats,” he said, but unlike de Kock, he does not foresee a future for himself in leagues alone. “I can only speak for me. Playing for my country has been an unbelievable joy and has given me great pride so I will focus on that for as long as I possibly can. There’s no doubt players will have tough decisions to make over the years. But I think international cricket is still the pinnacle.”

For many, this 50-over World Cup could represent the end of an era of sorts as international game learns to live alongside league cricket, and for Bavuma, it’s an ideal opportunity for South Africa to send one of their international stars, who is embracing T20 life, off with a bang. “With everything Quinny has achieved as a player – and the same could be said of a lot of guys within the group of a certain age – we would like to do something that hasn’t been done and that’s to win the World Cup. There’s no better way for him to walk away from South African cricket having done that.”

South Africa pick four quicks plus Maharaj

On a surface that has been described as flat, South Africa have opted for just one specialist spinner in Keshav Maharaj, and four quicks, which will likely mirror their World Cup combination. Reeza Hendricks remains on the bench, as back up.

South Africa XI for 1st ODI vs Australia: 1 Temba Bavuma (capt), 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Rassie van der Dussen, 4 Aiden Markram, 5 Heinrich Klaasen, 6 David Miller, 7 Marco Jansen, 8 Gerald Coetzee, 9 Keshav Maharaj, 10 Lungi Ngidi, 11 Kagiso Rabada

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