The fact that the national selectors were willing to choose a 33-year-old new cap for Test cricket in Stephen Cook this summer has provided hope and no little inspiration to Heino Kuhn, who is the leading run-scorer in the Sunfoil Series this season.
The 31-year-old Titans batsman also averaged 60 in the Momentum One-Day Cup and a golden summer has pushed Kuhn right back into the picture for national honours after playing five T20 internationals for South Africa as a wicketkeeper/batsman between 2009 and 2011.
Kuhn is now strictly an opening batsman (and a quality fielder too) and regularly goes big, with six centuries in the last two seasons. His tally of 18 first-class hundreds includes three doubles and a 191 for South Africa A against Bangladesh A.
“It was nice to see Stephen Cook get an opportunity with the Proteas, I was happy for him because for years he’s been flippen good for the Lions. It was great that he took his chance and it’s great to see that South African cricket is now like Australian cricket where, if you’re a good enough batsman, you’re never too old.
“As long as my body holds, I’ll always believe that I can play for South Africa again and my fiancé Trudie probably believes even more than me! But I’m playing the best cricket of my career and luckily enough I have another two years on my contract with the Titans, so I hope I can continue this run because it’s the best I’ve ever batted,” Kuhn says.
The Titans stalwart – he has been granted a benefit season by the franchise – says his purple patch is not down to anything new in his technique but rather a better focus on the basics of top-order batting.
“I just try to bat time and play straight. I know I have the square shots, but if I just try and play straight and face a lot of balls then I know I’ll get runs. I know that if I face 200 balls then I’ll be close to a hundred. It’s about sticking to the basics and Rob Walter [Titans coach] is big on us just worrying about our own things and not the opposition,” Kuhn says.
It’s amazing to think of all the different jobs Kuhn has fulfilled on a cricket field since his days at Affies in the early 2000s, playing alongside AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis. He was actually a middle-order batsman who dabbled in leg-spin.
“I batted four at Coke Week for Northerns, behind AB and Faf, and I batted twice, scoring 40 not out and four not out, the winning runs. And at club level, Roelof van der Merwe kept wicket and I bowled leg-spin, and then one day I said we should swop. I made a stumping off Roela and our ways were set!
“I was very fortunate to keep to guys like Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Alfonso Thomas, Paul Harris and Imran Tahir in my early days at the Titans. But if opening the batting is the only way I can play in a team, I’ll definitely take it. Not many people enjoy opening, but I put up my hand, I like the challenge. It’s like I prefer a green pitch because then you have to work for your runs and you know you deserve them. It’s lovely to get runs in those tough conditions,” Kuhn says.
The likeable man from Piet Retief certainly deserves a successful benefit and another look-in at international cricket, and there have been few more loyal servants of the Titans.
“At the beginning of my career I was fortunate to have traditional team-mates like Martin van Jaarsveld and Pierre de Bruyn, so that was the way I grew up. My family are all here in Pretoria and the Titans are the best franchise in the land. I can’t see myself playing in another country and, if I don’t play any more cricket for South Africa, then I won’t play international cricket for anybody else,” Kuhn says.