Graeme Smith, South Africa’s director of cricket, says that Quinton de Kock’s appointment as ODI captain is the first step in a succession plan aimed towards a successful challenge for the 2023 World Cup, as he confirmed that Faf du Plessis will not be reinstated as leader should he return to the team for the series against Australia in February.
Speaking at a press conference in Johannesburg, Smith added that the selectors would review du Plessis’ remaining roles as Test and T20 captain at the conclusion of the England tour, but stressed the need for a “robust” discussion about his long-term future in the team.
Du Plessis, 35, hinted at the end of last week’s innings defeat in Port Elizabeth that the fourth Test at the Wanderers, starting on Friday, could be his last on home soil.
He has been short of runs in the past few months – his second-innings 36 was his highest score in six innings against England, in which time he has been averaging 18.83.
And though du Plessis has earmarked South Africa’s Test tour of the West Indies in July as his farewell series, Smith is cautious about committing to the incumbent captain, both for that trip and for the T20 World Cup that takes place in Australia in November.
“We see Faf playing a role as a player but from a leadership perspective, we felt the need to move on,” Smith said of the decision to hand over the ODI reins to de Kock. “Faf doesn’t see himself being around in 2023. Leadership has been an issue of late in South African cricket and we have made the decision to give Quinny an opportunity.
“We feel tactically he is good, there are areas of his leadership that we all know we need to grow and develop but he is the right guy at this stage to take the one-day side forward.
De Kock himself has said he plans to take a “street-smart” approach to his new role, and should it prove a success in the coming weeks against England and Australia, the role could yet be his for the T20 World Cup too.
“With the World Cup around the corner, we need to go forward,” said Smith. “At the moment Faf is in that position but I need to sit with him post this Test series. He has got a bit of time because he is being rested from the one-day series so we will have some time to have a robust discussion on his future.
“He is the South African Test captain. The next Test match we play after this series will be in the Caribbean – there is an extensive amount of time. I need to understand how he sees his future in the game.”
Smith admitted that, while his appointment prior to the England tour had helped to deflect some of the political issues away from du Plessis, he had still had to deal with more off-field issues than most international captains, not least given the absence of Temba Bavuma and the impact that has had on South Africa’s transformation targets.
“For far too long, he has had too much to deal with and too many things to talk about, and I really wanted that not to happen in this series,” said Smith. “At times it has. Post these series, him and I can really sit down and work on how he sees his future and both of us can put our cards on the table.”
In terms of du Plessis’ future in ODI cricket, Smith insisted that the loss of the captaincy did not necessarily mean the end of a white-ball career that began in January 2011, and that his extensive experience could still be important in a new-look squad.
“His record in one-day cricket and T20 cricket is outstanding,” Smith said. “It will be silly of us not to have him involved. We’ve put a very young team on the table. Talented, yes, but we are up against the world champions. It could be a very daunting series for our guys, so we need to balance how we expose the youngsters with some senior players.”
At the age of 27, de Kock ought to be entering his prime, but Smith acknowledged that as a young leader he will need support on and off the field to grow into his new role.
“As CSA we are not going to throw him to the wolves,” said Smith. “He has had a bit of a taste of the leadership in India, we feel he is the right guy to go forward. We have got to support him and make sure we develop into an outstanding leader.”
The T20 World Cup could also feature a return to South Africa colours for AB de Villiers, whose belated decision to make himself available for last year’s 50-over World Cup came too late for the selectors to include him.
However, even at the age of 36, de Villiers remains one of the pre-eminent T20 batsmen in the world, and Smith said he was open to the prospect of his return.
“His record in one-day and T20 cricket is outstanding,” said Smith. “It would be silly of us not have him involved.”