England are back in Cape Town preparing to face South Africa, and the hosts’ captain Quinton de Kock is relishing a clash with Jofra Archer and Co.
The 27-year-old is fresh from IPL glory with Mumbai Indians and is keen to get going, but admits the behind-closed-doors series will be ‘weird’ without England’s loyal Barmy Army making noise from the stands.
Here, Sportsmail’s Nasser Hussain meets with the South Africa skipper ahead of England’s T20 opener on Saturday.
Quinten de Kock is ready to lead South Africa into a T20 clash with England on Saturday
England are in Cape Town preparing for their second clash with South Africa in 2020
Nasser Hussain: You’ve just returned from the IPL, where you pulled off back-to-back wins with Mumbai Indians and batted well. How much did you enjoy it?
Quinton de Kock: It’s a great tournament, though it was tough being in a bubble. Beforehand, we talked about winning back-to-back and completing that goal was a great feeling.
NH: You’ve not played international cricket since March but you seemed to be rising to the responsibility as South Africa captain. Do you enjoy it?
QDK: When I first got the job, I was pretty nervous. Now I feel more comfortable, but I don’t really think my captaincy is the reason for the team winning.
There have been a lot of players putting their hands up. That’s been the key to our success. Lots of new guys are coming through and that’s helped me a lot.
England and South Africa clashed in an ODI test back in February, with the visitors winning 2-1
NH: Captaining any South African sporting team is always difficult, with transformation and the quota system. And there have been issues recently with the cricket board. How easy is it to put some of that stuff to one side and focus on cricket?
QDK: The stuff with the board has nothing to do with us. What happens on the pitch and what’s going on with the board are two different entities. That’s their burden to bear.
We have to focus on our cricket and we’re lucky to have guys who are getting picked on merit anyway. They’re the best performers around.
NH: There has been a lot of attention on Black Lives Matter and the team’s decision not to take a knee ahead of the England games. Can you explain the thinking behind that?
QDK: We spoke about it as a team but we’ve been asked to deal with another issue, which is gender-based violence.
South Africa will not take the knee against England, instead choosing to support other causes
It’s tough for us as a team to represent so many things. Gender-based violence was what we wanted to represent at the moment. That was the decision-making.
NH: But would it have done any harm, just to show support to the black members of your team, to take a knee? Is there a downside to it?
QDK: We’ve represented the BLM movement during the 3T game (a three-team match in July), when everyone was on their knees.
Now we’re representing gender-based violence. BLM is still with us, it forms part of the armband we’re wearing. But it’s also us speaking out about gender-based violence. We can’t shadow that under the BLM movement.
NH: Let’s talk about the cricket. Are the lads who weren’t at the IPL a bit undercooked going into this series?
Heinrich Klaasen is the South Africa captain’s pick to emerge as a force in the coming series
QDK: A few guys who weren’t at the IPL have been playing four-day cricket. I know it’s not T20 but at least they’ve had some batting time. I don’t think we’re undercooked. To say that would be the soft option.
NH: Which of your less well-known players might emerge in this series?
QDK: I think a guy like Klaasy (Heinrich Klaasen). He made a couple of statements against Australia. His batting in the nets has been unbelievable. He’s one to keep an eye on.
NH: One name who isn’t there is AB de Villiers. Should South African cricket move on, or should they be asking him whether he’s available for next year’s T20 World Cup?
QDK: I haven’t given it much thought. If I ask myself what’s the best way of winning an ICC event, if it’s a case of having him in the team, then sure.
AB de Villiers is not in South Africa’s plans for England, but De Kock would love him on board
There are a couple of questions we need to ask among the management and staff. When that happens, I’ll have a better idea.
NH: But would you like AB de Villiers in your team?
QDK: Every team wants AB in it. But the T20 World Cup is a while away. Who knows if it’s going to go on, or where. We’re still in the dark. But yeah, any guy would want AB in the team.
NH: Graeme Smith, South Africa’s director of cricket, ruled you out of being the Test captain because he didn’t want too much on your plate. Did you agree with that? And how important is it to make sure you’re fresh?
QDK: Me and Bouch (coach Mark Boucher) had a chat about it. I said if I had the Test captaincy, it’s going to be tough. And he agreed.
If it’s just ODI or white-ball, it’s very much manageable. The Test job, I’m not too sure. Maybe I do need that responsibility. It’s hard to put a finger on it at the moment.
The 27-year-old has been forced to pull back from contention for South Africa’s test captaincy
NH: But it sounds like you want to keep the gloves in all three formats?
QDK: Keeping helps me out a lot with my captaincy. I’m able to read the game better and understand how things are going on the field. I’ve fielded a couple of times in my life and I couldn’t read the game as well.
NH: The modern game is about match-ups. Among the tastier ones in this series is you against Jofra Archer.
QDK: Yeah, you always know he’s going to come steaming in, especially in T20 cricket in the powerplay.
He hits a hard length and he’s a tough bowler to face. He and I play very competitively against each other. I don’t think either of us has come out on top, but we’re always in each other’s faces.
Jofra Archer will be one of the biggest threats to South Africa in the series starting on Saturday
NH: How weird will it be to play without spectators at Newlands?
QDK: It is going to feel weird playing against England without you guys singing your anthems. We always remember the Barmy Army and the trumpet player — that’s something we will miss.
They’re supporting England but we enjoy the camaraderie. And we’ll dearly miss the noise that Cape Town brings — cricket has a big fan base down here.
NH: During lockdown, a lot of South Africans have been craving seeing their heroes again. Does tonight feel like a big night?
QDK: Yeah, it’s going to be big. It’s a fresh start, almost the start of our season. We want to get off on a good note. A lot of people will be watching us from their couches, and we want to play the best cricket we can.