Kuhn’s long walk to test cap almost over

Times Media


TELFORD VICE in London

HEINO Kuhn has waited 33 years and 133 first-class matches to be named in South Africa’s test squad.

On Monday, he was among the 16 players picked for the test series in England next month.

The moment might have been upon Kuhn in 2015-16, when he was the leading runscorer in the franchise first-class competition, or in 2006-07, when he was second from the top.

Instead, it came after he had scored an undefeated 200 for South Africa A against Hampshire in Southampton earlier this month.

That’s when the selectors told him his summer in England would continue for a couple of months.

Other notable decisions were the inclusion of Andile Phehlukwayo at the expense of Wayne Parnell, and that Dean Elgar would captain South Africa in the first test at Lord’s if Faf du Plessis doesn’t make it back in time from attending the birth of his and his wife Imari’s first child.

In batting terms, Aiden Markram is the plan B if Du Plessis isn’t around.

Stephen Cook, who scored 17 runs in four innings in New Zealand in March, makes way for Kuhn.

As if to celebrate his elevation, Kuhn made 105 against the England Lions in Canterbury on Thursday.

No pressure, then?

“It wouldn’t have made a difference; I play every game as if it’s my last,” Kuhn said about going out to bat with his then unannounced selection on his mind.

He made his first-class debut in February 2005 and played seven T20s for South Africa between November 2009 and January this year.

So, for a long time, it seemed as if Kuhn’s efforts to reach the highest level would go unrecognised.

“It’s always very disappointing, but it all happens for a reason,” he said. “It wasn’t my time, and now’s my time.”

Did he think of going the Kolpak route?

“I love South Africa too much. I’ve got a business there, so I’ll just play my cricket there.

“I’m not getting any younger, so I’ll finish in South Africa.”

Kuhn is one of South Africa’s most experienced cricketers and offers a strong second suit as a wicketkeeper.

How might he bring the value of his time in the game to South Africa’s dressingroom?

“I’ve played 11 years of franchise cricket, so it’s not like I’m young and inexperienced and I’m just going to listen,” Kuhn said.

“If I’ve got something to contribute I’m definitely going to mention it.

“I know everyone who’s playing there, I’m very good friends with a lot of them.

“But I do know my place: it will be my debut if I play.”

What might that something to contribute be?

“Just to keep them motivated,” he said.

“They haven’t had the greatest of times in England but I like to have fun while playing as well as I can.”

South Africa added defeat in the T20 series on Sunday to their loss in the one-day rubber and a first-round crash out of the Champions Trophy, so Kuhn might well have to add the fun factor.

He will have to do so with Markram — 11 years his junior and tipped for the top — also in the dressingroom.

How did that make Kuhn feel?

“He’s going to play a big role in South African cricket,” Kuhn said.

“I don’t see him as a threat. If he does well and gets picked I’ll be happy for him.

“I’ve been like that all my career. I’m not going to worry about the other guys taking my spot.”

Sometimes, nice guys don’t finish last.

Cook taught us that.

South Africa test squad: Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Dean Elgar, Heino Kuhn, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Duanne Olivier, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.

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