JOHANNESBURG – Quinton de Kock said the prohibitive nature of bio bubbles wore him down much more than captaining the Proteas and was the only reason for his recent ‘mental health break.’
The attacking wicket-keeper batsman made a stunning return to form on the second day of the first Test against the West Indies in St. Lucia on Friday, scoring a career-best 141 not out, to propel South Africa into a dominant position.
At stumps, the West Indies, dismissed for only 97 in their first innings. were 82/4, still trailing South Africa by 143 runs.
De Kock’s innings and his celebration of his sixth Test hundred seemed to indicate a player free of the stress of captaincy, which appeared to wear him down earlier this year in Pakistan. However he said after Friday’s play that the captaincy wasn’t so much of a worry for him, more the fact that he’s spent a lot of time in various bio-secure environments, which limit contact with people, and place extreme restrictions on movement.
For someone like De Kock, a lover of the out-doors, it’s proven to be extremely difficult. “It’s got nothing to do with the captaincy, it had everything to do with the Covid ‘bubbles.’ I’ve been in so many bubbles and it took its toll. It was just too much.”
The tour to Pakistan proved to be the final straw. “The Pakistan bubble was particularly difficult; just going from cricket change-room to being limited to one floor in the hotels, with no balconies, no nothing, no room to move and I just asked to have a break.”
After last season’s Test series against Sri Lanka, De Kock described living, training and playing in a bio secure environment as “unsettling.” Unlike the majority of his teammates, De Kock had spent a lot of time in ‘bio bubbles’ starting with the 2020 Indian Premier League last September, then onto the T20 series against England, followed by the Tests against Sri Lanka before the tour to Pakistan.
“I asked for a break during the (domestic) T20 competition. They (CSA) deemed it a mental break…I wasn’t mentally tired from cricket, I was just tired of ‘bubbles.’ I just had enough of them. It started with the IPL last year, and then it was just the whole time.”
The break did De Kock the world of good. The ‘bio bubble’ in the Caribbean hasn’t been as lengthy or restrictive, although the players still haven’t been allowed outside of the luxury hotel they’re staying in in St. Lucia.
⛔️ DAY 2 | STUMPS
Rabada (2/18) and Nortje (2/34) reduced @windiescricket to 82/4 at stumps on Day 2 but the day belonged to Quinton de Kock who ended on an unbeaten 141 in the first innings. @windies cricket trail by 143 runs with 6 wickets in hand#WIvSA #ThatsOurGame pic.twitter.com/O1HzePnaMe
— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) June 11, 2021
His teammates will certainly be grateful for having a fresher De Kock around.
He admitted that his recent poor form didn’t bother him. “A while ago it was irritating when I wasn’t capitalising on my starts. I was getting out early against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, if I was getting starts and not converting that would have irritated me, but in the last while I wasn’t getting starts, but today to bat through is a great feeling.”
Despite South Africa’s strong position after just two days, and a pitch still offering lots of assistance to the seam bowlers, De Kock isn’t counting his chickens just yet. “I just want the bowlers to keep doing what they’re doing, building pressure and we should have the game closed by Saturday. In saying that though, they still have some good players to come; we’ve seen their team bat deep; they have some good players, they can still put pressure on us.”