De Kock showing maturity beyond years: Coach

Centurion: Ishant Sharma might think that Quinton de Kock was lucky to get three back-to-back hundreds in the ODI series against India but the young South African`s coach Geoffrey Toyana is not the least bit surprised that the 20-year-old has sparkled so early in his career.

Team India crumbled at the Wanderers in the first ODI when chasing 359, and then again at Kingsmead even when the target came down to 281. Then at Supersport Park, India were left 302 to chase. De Kock was central to all three Proteas` totals. With three successive hundreds at Johannesburg, Durban and Centurion, de Kock became only the fifth batsman in ODI history to do so.

"The way he bats, can you believe he is only 20 years old?" asked Geoffrey Toyana, head coach of the Highveld Lions, the franchise de Kock plays for in South Africa`s premier domestic T20 competition. De Kock emulated fellow South African opener Herschelle Gibbs who scored three-on-the-run against Bangladesh, India and Kenya in 2002. Only, de Kock did it in the same series, and is the only batsman in ODI cricket to boast of this feat.

He equalled Ireland`s Paul Stirling record of four ODI hundreds before the age of 21, doing so just in time for he celebrates his 21st birthday on December 17. Also, he also has batted the fewest innings to score four ODI hundreds, and has most hundreds before scoring an ODI fifty. Yes, he has a hundred per-cent conversion rate so far.

Needless to say, de Kock has become the cynosure of all eyes in South African cricket. "He bats with such maturity and patience, yet scores quickly. His innings at Johannesburg was easy, he was barely moving his feet in the second half of his century, just hitting across the line on that pitch. Durban was a lot tougher because it was a slower wicket.

"There is a lot of expectation riding on him already and he hasn`t disappointed so far," he added. De Kock was the highest run-getter in that 2012-13 edition of the tournament which Lions went on to win. He scored 524 runs in 11 matches at an average of 52.40 at a strike-rate of 145.55.

In the Sunfoil Series, the 2012-13 first-class competition, he was the fourth highest run-getter, with 559 runs in 12 innings (6 matches) at 46.58. It comes as no coincidence then that he made his ODI and T20 debut for the Proteas back then, both coming against New Zealand last winter.

"It isn`t a surprise that he is already playing international cricket," said Toyana. "His big challenge came when he was picked to play the ODI series in Sri Lanka (in July 2013). They have slower tracks and he was circumspect about spin. He didn`t do very well there, but South African cricket is in a building phase at the moment and heavily invested in this young batsman," he added.

Their persistence paid off when de Kock slammed his maiden ODI ton against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi. It was a tough batting wicket, with the second-best score being 46 by Hashim Amla. And yet de Kock stroked his way to 112 (135 balls). It scripted a 28-run win for his team in this fourth ODI and sealed the series.

It has resulted in some major shuffle in the Proteas` batting order. Graeme Smith left the squad after the first ODI against India, because apparently, he wasn`t needed unless there was an injury. A B de Villiers also suggested that de Kock could possibly move down the order, to number three, should they accommodate seven batsmen in the future. That would pretty much knock out Jacques Kallis as well, given that his place in the squad is already under the scanner.

"In all this praise about batting, people tend to forget that he is an exceptional wicket-keeper as well. He shall soon be keeping in all three formats for South Africa," reminded the Lions` coach. That might take a while, for de Villiers keeps wickets in Tests while Thami Tsolekile is the reserve stumper.

"No, I am not surprised that he is not in the squad. The reason being that South Africa have been the number one ranked Test side in the world for over a year now. And the squad is quite settled. Obviously the selectors don`t want to change the combination for this important two Test series," said Toyana.

"But, I am sure Quinny will be playing Tests by the time he is 22. I just imagine the player he will be at 25 and smile. He will be more patient batsman and complete all-rounder given his keeping skills. When he finishes, there is no doubt he will surely end up as a legend of South African cricket," he said.