Quinton de Kock has long been a maverick. A precocious talent, it was obvious early in his career that he did not fit easily into any cricketing stereotypes.
It’s a trait that is familiar to his teammates, as captain Temba Bavuma acknowledged on Tuesday after De Kock’s most controversial move yet.
“Quinton is an adult and a man in his own shoes,” said Bavuma after De Kock withdrew from the South African team’s T20 World Cup match against the West Indies rather than obey an instruction from Cricket South Africa to “take the knee” in a gesture against racism.
“We respect his decision and we respect his conviction,” Bavuma added.
Even before his first selection for South Africa four days after his 20th birthday in December 2012, De Kock told an interviewer that he really didn’t like to talk about cricket.
He accepted that it would be part of his job if he made the big time but added, “I have no clue what I’ll say but my answers will be short and sweet.”
He preferred, he said, to talk about fishing, about which he was passionate.
It was a mantra that he has largely lived by, although he became more comfortable in front of cameras and microphones as the runs piled up in all forms of the game.
Soon after he started to establish himself in the national team he told journalists that he didn’t study opposition bowlers or believe in video analysis.
“I just go out and play,” he said.
Nor was he obsessive about the exact specifications of his bats.
“I take the bat that’s given to me and that’s what it is,” he said on a visit to his bat sponsor’s factory in 2017.
His individualistic approach has been no barrier to success.
He has scored more than 10 000 international runs over the course of 53 Tests, 124 One-Day internationals and 58 T20 Internationals, usually scored at a rapid rate with a dazzling array of strokes.
He has also claimed 395 victims as an accomplished wicketkeeper.
His flamboyant style of play has made him a magnet for Indian Premier League teams since 2013, ensuring that he is one of the game’s big earners.
It would be a mistake, though, to categorise Quinton de Kock, 28, as a carefree young man.
Surprisingly made the captain in all three international formats during the last South African season, his batting form slumped and in February he was granted what was described as a “mental health break” after an unsuccessful tour of Pakistan.
Relieved of the captaincy, his form returned and he was man of the series when South Africa won a Test series in the West Indies in June.
But his reluctance to take the knee following last year’s Black Lives Matter movement was becoming an issue.
In the absence of unanimity on the issue, the South African players opted for individual choice, with some players taking the knee, others standing with a raised fist – and De Kock standing with his hands behind his back.
De Kock’s only public comment on the issue was during the tour of the West Indies.
“My reason? I’ll keep it to myself. It’s my own, personal opinion. It’s everyone’s decision; no-one’s forced to do anything, not in life.”
Except that on Tuesday it was no longer a choice, with Cricket South Africa controversially ordering its players to take the knee.
Depending on CSA’s reaction to a report from team management De Kock’s future in international cricket could be in jeopardy.
If so, he seems assured of a lucrative future in the world’s T20 leagues, while South Africa will be without one of their outstanding talents.