Zondi: Proteas to back Cook

2016-07-29 15:30
Stephen Cook (File)

Cape Town – The Proteas plan to give a generous opportunity for Stephen Cook to establish himself as a regular feature at the top of their Test order.

So says Linda Zondi, convener of the national selectors, speaking in an interview with Sport24 shortly before the CSA Awards banquet in Johannesburg earlier this week.

Cook has already gone some way personally, of course, to teeing up a decent run in the side by registering a century on debut against England last summer, albeit in the dead-rubber final encounter at Centurion with South Africa already having surrendered the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy.

But Zondi was notably enthusiastic, nevertheless, that the Lions stalwart could become a regular part of the furniture as the Proteas enter a prolific phase of Test activity – beginning with a home series against New Zealand very shortly – where they will aim to claw themselves back up the rankings from a current, disappointing sixth.

“With all the (first-class) experience he brought along anyway, and then the runs he got (on debut) … we are certainly wanting to back him and hope he does come through as a settled player for us.

“Look, we gave Stiaan van Zyl a reasonable run as an opener, and now the same is (intended) for Cooky.

“We don’t want our opening partnership to fail, because that puts a lot of extra pressure on our key, major run-scorers at three or four like Hashim (Amla) and AB (de Villiers) – so we need stability against the new ball.”

Zondi said Cook and the more entrenched other Proteas opener, Dean Elgar, had been sent to Australia with SA ‘A’ for two imminent, unofficial Tests not only to prime them for the New Zealand series, but with a view to the three Tests in the very Australia – now the No 1-ranked outfit – in November.

“That tour (Down Under) could be especially important in our quest to start getting back up to a higher ranking than we have right now, so along with Temba (Bavuma), that pair getting to play in Aussie conditions should really aid their preparation for the big series.

“We shouldn’t accept mediocrity, and with the crop of players we can summon, I genuinely believe we will move upward again – we shouldn’t be where we are, and we need to accept that. There’s no (scope) to drift; I would like to see noticeable momentum.”

Zondi said he was not concerned about Cook’s unusually advanced age for a Test “rookie”:  the right-hander will turn 33 in November.

“He keeps himself in good shape and I see no reason why he should not be contending (for South Africa) for at least the next three years or thereabouts.

“There are no guarantees, but sometimes guys get into Test cricket late and they thrive, helped by their experience – probably he’s one of those guys.”

The possibility of longevity for Cook in Test whites is enhanced by the still-active presence of several significantly older batsmen in the five-day landscape: examples are Pakistan’s remarkable 42-year-old captain Misbah-ul-Haq, Australia’s Adam Voges (37 in October) and West Indian Marlon Samuels who is 35.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  stephen cook  |  cricket

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