Heino Kuhn has waited 33 years and 133 first-class matches to be named in SA’s Test squad. On Monday‚ he was among the 16 players picked for July’s Test series in England.
The moment might have been upon Kuhn in 2015-16‚ when he was the leading run scorer 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 SA A against Hampshire in Southampton earlier in June. That is when the selectors told him his summer in England would continue for a few months.
Other notable decisions were the inclusion of Andile Phehlukwayo at the expense of Wayne Parnell‚ and that Dean Elgar would captain SA in the first Test at Lord’s if Faf du Plessis does not 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 is not 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 SA between November 2009 and January 2017. 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 SA too much. I’ve got a business there‚ so I’ll just play my cricket there."
Kuhn is one of SA’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 SA’s dressing room?
"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."
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."
SA 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 — also in the dressing room. 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 do not finish last. Cook taught us that.