Tony de Zorzi. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)
- New Proteas Test batter Tony de Zorzi isn’t focused on suggestions the start of his international career is paving a path towards captaincy.
- Red-ball coach Shukri Conrad has publicly suggested the former national Under-19 skipper has leadership ability.
- De Zorzi, while honoured of such a suggestion, only wants to score runs for now.
Tony de Zorzi’s elevation into the Proteas Test side might have been down to a steady rise in provincial cricket over the past few years, as well as some red-hot form this season, but there’s a potentially longer game involved here too.
The 26-year-old left-hander, who looked relatively comfortable in crafting 28 in his first ever international innings in last week’s first Test against the West Indies in Centurion, has been flagged as captaincy material ever since being selected as SA Schools skipper in 2015.
De Zorzi then led the national Under-19 side in what proved a chastening 2016 World Cup in Bangladesh before settling down for a period, especially after moving to Cape Town in 2020, and was installed as Western Province captain at the start of the season.
Shukri Conrad, the Proteas’ red-ball coach, also publicly stated he believes De Zorzi could become a future leader at international level after announcing his first Test squad a few weeks back.
Not that the man himself is remotely preoccupying himself with such thoughts.
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“To be honest, I haven’t had any sort of leadership chats with the people around me in the squad. My first goal is to try and cement my place in the team, wherever that is. I can only do that through sheer weight of runs,” said De Zorzi on Monday, ahead of the second Test commencing at the Wanderers on Wednesday.
“If you’re going to be a good leader, you’re going to have to lead from the front and that means scoring runs or taking wickets. I can’t lay claim to any leadership positions if I didn’t make an impact, delivered a few match-winning performances.
“So, it’s really not something that I’ve paid attention to. We have a Test series to win and I want to contribute to that.”
However, if the future does bring such an opportunity, De Zorzi wouldn’t shy away.
“These things happen in the future. If it comes, then I’d obviously grab it with both hands, which would be exciting. But, for now, such thoughts are a fair way away.”
Known for being a bit of a nervous starter to his innings, De Zorzi overcame much of that in eventually striking four boundaries during his first visit to the crease, although he did run himself out after being sent back in search of an unwise third run.
Assisting in that regard was the fact that he’d come into the team on the back of over 500 runs in just six first-class innings this season to date.
“You definitely know it’s a level up. You’re definitely aware that the intensity increases and you’re going to face bowlers of a higher skill,” said De Zorzi.
“But when you have runs behind your name you can trust whatever you have in the ‘locker’, your repertoire. You’d find that maybe the doubts don’t creep in so easily when you’re starting out.
“It definitely helps.”
De Zorzi departed for a duck in the second innings, but in mitigation feathered a superb delivery from Kemar Roach behind.
In fact, it showcased vividly the nature of a testing SuperSport Park surface, though he believes it was competitive.
“It was a decent pitch, which we saw on the first day when Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar make that big opening stand,” said De Zorzi.
“On a wicket you’ll have a ball that has you’re name on it. It will be a bit up and down, there will be sideways movement.”
And the expectations are for something similar being on offer at the Wanderers.
“That will be the chats going into this Test, how we can apply ourselves a bit better and combat those conditions.
“It wasn’t unfairly weighted. It looked that way when you have Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje steaming in, but it was actually alright.”