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Quinton de Kock: Abrupt end to promising Test career

Quinton de Kock leaves everyone in shock as he announces his retirement from the Test Cricket.

Quinton de Kock announces retirement from the Test Cricket (©RANDYBROOKS/AFP/GettyImages)
Quinton de Kock announces retirement from the Test Cricket (©RANDYBROOKS/AFP/GettyImages)

“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” – Quinton de Kock revealed after declaring Test retirement on December 30, 2021, playing his last red-ball game against India at SuperSports Park, Centurion. He bid adieu with 3300 runs with six centuries and 22 fifties in 54 Tests at a decent average of 38.82.

Hours after Protea’s heavy loss against India on the same ground by 113 runs, a South Africa team statement said that their wicketkeeper batter Quinton de Kock had retired form Test cricket. It was a proper bolt from blue news for cricket fans around the globe given how young de Kock is (29) and of late fragile condition of the Proteas Test side especially.

The whole world is opining on the probable reasons behind the shocking resolution. All the expressions have ranged from his decision of refusing to take a knee in Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement to an upcoming high lucrative T20 franchise deal or obviously giving more time to his family and his hobby - fishing.

The tough decision of taking retirement

Such decisions in life aren’t the easiest ones in life for any sportsperson. They say it is about one single action on the field - wrong shot, bad decision or a dropped catch - it can drive one in taking the critical decision.

For example, during the 2008 Border-Gavaskar series against India, the Australia wicketkeeper batter, Adam Gilchrist, after playing the fourth and last Test of the series in Adelaide decided to hang his boots. Later on, he expressed that he took the decision straightaway after failing to grab a dolly behind the stumps in that game. “I reckon it’s good reason to retire if you drop the catch of VVS Laxman in a Test match,” Gilchrist conveyed in a show called “Live Connect”.

Perhaps, both modes of dismissals in the last game had added some extra reason in de Kock’s already planned decision. The way he chopped onto his stumps, first to Shardul Thakur and then to Mohammed Siraj, told all the spectators that something was wrong; probably he had shifted his mind off the game. He has been bowled off an edge once in his 91 innings by a seamer but never twice in the same match. It must be said here that he looked good for 100 minutes in his fighting 34 in the first innings.

De Kock’s top three Test innings

Since making his debut back in 2014 against Australia in Port Elizabeth, he had notched up 22 half-centuries and six hundreds and led the side in four Tests. Let’s take a look at his three best Test knocks

111 vs India, Visakhapatnam in 2019

Even though the end of de Kock’s Test journey suggests that India had thrashed the visitors by a heavy margin but the South African wicketkeeper-batter playing in his first Test innings on Indian soil showed his class. South Africa were struggling at 63/4, chasing India’s huge first innings score of 502/7. The left-handed batter, arriving at 178/5 with the clouds of follow-on gathering over the tourists, milked the spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. He played some gorgeous shots along with hitting couple of balls over the fence.

De Kock brought up his century and eventually got undone by Ashwin on Nelson but not before taking his side to a safe place. It was his first and now his last Test ton in Asia.

141* vs West Indies, Gros Islet, St Lucia in 2021

In what eventually became his last Test hundred, Quinton de Kock showed why he was rated so highly in the South African set-up. When he walked in to bat at 119/4, the visitors were looking for a heavy lead bundling the West Indies for just 97; but the Proteas collapsed to 233-8 as de Kock was running out of partners. Then he went into beast mode and played a hallmark innings with a number of supreme shots all around the park. With a wonderful six on the leg side, he achieved an eye-catching century. He remained undefeated on 141 with 12 boundaries and seven sixes to help his side take a 225-run lead and win the game by a vast margin. Perhaps, he was the key difference between the two XIs.

104 vs Australia, Hobart in 2016

This innings that Quinton de Kock played down under will be remembered for a long time in public memory. After the Vernon Philander-Kyle Abbott show packed up the Aussies for 85, the visiting Proteas side were finding it hard too being reduced to 76/4. In came de Kock and he used all the shots in the book; he flicked, pulled and even utilized the funky shots.

The South African came down the track against spinner Nathan Lyon and eventually raised his bat for his 2nd Test century at the time. The strike-rate of 73 made it more pleasing while others were finding it hard to get a scoring shot off their bats. South Africa, shouldering on de Kock’s century, pilled up 326 and won the game by an innings and 80 runs.

Excellent Superman keeping skills

De Kock’s keeping skills had the ability to snatch the limelight from his batting. It is never easy to keep against the bouncers of whether it’s Dale Steyn or Kagiso Rabada or Morne Morkel; even he was as good keeping to the swing of Vernon Philander or Kyle Abbott. The way he kept in the 30-minute period at the end of the third day in his last Test was second to none.

De Kock used to avoid his wicketkeeping pads while taking to the stumps for the slow bowlers to better his movement and agility behind the wickets and also increase the possibilities of a run-out. All these resulted in a lot of back problems in his short career.

The upcoming international white-ball career

So, the smile will be seen in only the ODI and T20 set-up for the South African side; he will be free in his approach and can take time to heal the injuries and recharge himself from the continuous bubble life. The funky stylish shots will still occupy a pride of place in the grounds where he plays. No brainer that he can still spend a superior lifestyle from the earnings of franchise cricket.

Two sides of de Kock’s decision

One positive sign of the decision may lead up to creating a good vibe between the South African players and their own board (CSA). But no matter what kind of reasons de Kock provided, the hard decision made by him at the young age of 29 of easily saying no to the longest format of the game may see more players coming out of their comfort zones to say it publicly if not privately. One group of players will encourage the upcoming generation to seize white over red.

Nonetheless, the whole world will miss him in the longest format but South African Test side will feel a huge gap in their batting and leadership core.

Here are some of the top twitter reactions from Quinton de Kock's shocking Test Retirement:

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