Opinion: The rise and rise of De Kock

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Before discussing whether Quinton de Kock is 'the next AB de Villiers', let's take a trip back in time. Back to December 2013 when de Kock was just 20 years old and a relatively new face in South Africa's ODI squad.

Before discussing whether Quinton de Kock is 'the next AB de Villiers', let's take a trip back in time. Back to December 2013 when de Kock was just 20 years old and a relatively new face in South Africa's ODI squad.

De Kock's ODI career was only 14 matches old when he was set to play against India, who, at that time, were considered to be his toughest opposition yet. However, this youngster from Johannesburg defied all odds and achieved something only four other batsmen have done.

But, before discussing that record, it is important to see how De Kock's career has skyrocketed in such a short period of time.

De Kock was destined to become a cricketer ever since he was earmarked as something of a prodigy during his schoolboy years at King Edward VII School in Johannesburg. At the tender age of sixteen, de Kock made his first-class debut for Gauteng during the 2009-10 season and was subsequently drafted into South Africa's Under-19 squad as well.

During the 2012 Under-19 World Cup, which was held in Australia, de Kock rose to prominence after he struck 95 runs off 131 balls in South Africa's opening match against Bangladesh. He followed that up with a magnificent 126 off 106 deliveries against Namibia.

While his red-hot form with the bat failed to continue for the rest of the tournament, he did excel with the keeping gloves and even recorded five dismissals, which included three catches and two stumpings, against England in the quarter-final against England. Due to big scores he made at the beginning of the tournament, he finished fourth on the table of most runs scored in the competition.

De Kock's career continued to flourish during the 2012 Champions League Twenty20 when he smashed 51 runs off 33 balls against the Mumbai Indians in Johannesburg. It was at this point in time that we heard people talking about De Kock possibly being the 'next AB de Villiers'.

With de Kock continuing to excel in the domestic arena, it was only a matter of time before the national selectors had no choice but to give him a chance at the international level. De Kock made his international debut on December 21, 2012 in a Twenty20 International against New Zealand.

While his innings of 28 helped lead South Africa to victory, it was his aggressive mindset and approach that impressed many people and, once again, compelled them to compare him to a younger version of De Villiers.

Just under a month later, QdK made his ODI debut against New Zealand, but failed to have much of an impact with the bat. It wasn't until November 2013, when South Africa squared off against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, that his ODI and Twenty20 International career really started to take off.

During that ODI series against Pakistan, De Kock scored 186 runs, which included his maiden ODI century, at an impressive average of 62. He followed that up with scores of 48 not out and 30 in the two Twenty20 Internationals.

While his solid form with the bat continued when Pakistan toured South Africa for a short limited overs series later that month, it wasn't until December that de Kock cemented his place in South Africa's ODI and Twenty20 squad.

When India came to South Africa in December, he Kock started off the three-match ODI series with a career-best knock of 135. He followed that up with scores of 106 and 101 to become only the fifth player to score three consecutive ODI centuries.

The other four players who have accomplished the same feat are Pakistan batsmen Zaheer Abbas and Saeed Anwar, and the South African duo of Herschelle Gibbs and, funnily enough, De Villiers himself. However, if being in the same league as those four illustrious players wasn't enough, de Kock was the youngest player to reach that milestone as he was just 20 at the time.

It was after he accomplished this incredible feat that we seriously began to brood about whether De Kock really is the next De Villiers. Both players are wicketkeeper-batsmen, they have both scored three consecutive ODI centuries and they share similar batting styles, whereby they can play textbook strokes like the cover drive and more unorthodox shots like the reverse sweep. Furthermore, both players also have the ability to stabilise the innings or go on an all-out rampage should the situation require it.

In fact, if we compared their averages after the same number of matches, it comes as a little bit of shock to learn that De Kock has a better average in both ODIs and Twenty20 Internationals than De Villiers.

De Kock averages 45 after playing 30 ODIs and almost 28 after representing the Proteas in 17 Twenty20 Internationals. De Villiers, meanwhile, averaged just over 31 after 30 ODIs and just over 20 two after having participated in 17 Twenty20 Internationals.

From the statistical evidence above, it seems that De Kock has enjoyed a lot more success than De Villiers in his ODI and Twenty20 International career thus far. However, this 21-year-old prodigy's career is still very young and only time will tell if he can match what his skipper has managed to accomplish in the 127 one ODIs he has played.

Given the huge impact he has had in ODI and Twenty20 cricket thus far, De Kock is surely on the road to becoming the next de Villiers. There is no doubt that the pair have the same kind of batting qualities, approach and mindset.

But, it all comes down to whether De Kock can build on the strong start he has made to his international career and follow in De Villiers' footsteps to become one of the best cricketers South Africa has ever produced.

<b>Bimal Mirwani</b>

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