South Africa’s one-day skipper AB de Villiers recently announced that he there is no place for Test skipper Graeme Smith in the one-day squad presently since Quinton de Kock has grabbed his opportunities and has taken world cricket by storm with three stunning centuries in a space of 15 matches. de Villiers’ admission that he doesn’t see Smith slotting in anywhere else if he is not opening is a clear indication of the fact that the Proteas are looking towards the future as far as one-dayers are concerned.
While it is great news for South African cricket that de Kock has arrived with a bang – he has an added advantage since he is a keeper as well, obituaries on Smith’s one-day career should not be written as yet. As mentioned earlier, de Kock is only 15 matches old and while it is amazing that he has smashed three tons during this period, he has to be judged over a period of time. Two of his three hundreds have come in home conditions, and while that doesn’t take away from the quality of the knock, it is a fact that scoring at home is much easier.
True, de Kock did get his maiden hundred in Abu Dhabi in completely alien conditions. Still, he has to show consistency over a prolonged period of time, and only then it can be concluded that de Kock should be the opener for South Africa in the 2015 World Cup. Admire him for his talent and the wonderful start to his international career. At the same time, let him also prove himself on spin-friendly conditions in India and Sri Lanka. In fact, de Kock did play three games in Sri Lanka and failed in all three of those. Considering his inexperience, he was retained in the squad though.
Coming back to Smith, he has proved himself as a one-day player over the last decade, scoring runs in all kinds of conditions against the best of opponents. He averages nearly 38 having played close to 200 matches. In fact, till as recently as the Pakistan series, he was the team’s permanent opener. de Kock actually got his opportunity only because Smith was injured for the last match of the series. On present form, de Kock definitely deserves to hang on to the openers slot, but Smith should not be ruled out completely.
The experience of the Test skipper can come in handy for the side. He should be kept in the loop of things for the same reason. Smith can always come in for an injured player and bat in the middle order. It will be a different challenge for him, but one Smith would accept gleefully. Also, the likes of JP Duminy and David Miller are still to stamp their authority completely so Smith can also come in for them if and when needed. Finally, in case Kallis decides to retire from ODIs prior to the World Cup, South Africa would need Smith’s experience.
Although things seem bleak for Smith at the moment, he is not 33 yet and still has plenty to offer in one-dayers.
--By A Cricket Analyst