Johannesburg - Dozens of high fives did the rounds at the
University of Johannesburg (UJ) after Stephen Cook had hit 14 fours in an
innings of 115 in his Test cricket debut at Centurion last month.
Cook had been a star student and a role model at UJ well
before his belated elevation to international cricket for the fourth Test match
between South Africa and England.
The 33-year-old had won an award for academic excellence
and, unbeknown to most spectators and television viewers who saw his superb
batting at SuperSport Park, had earned a BCom LLB to go with all the cricket
records behind his name.
When Cook began his studies in 2003, UJ was still known as
Rand Afrikaans University (RAU). One of his varsity friends was rugby superstar
Bryan Habana, whom he had known from their days at King Edward VII School in
By the time he completed his LLB in 2009 - after a break to
play club cricket in England - Cook had represented UJ in several SA
universities and national club tournaments.
Playing first-class cricket for the Lions while pursuing his
academic qualifications, Cook had to keep his eye on the ball, so to speak. But
encouragement and advice were never far, because the staff at UJ included
Stephen’s famous cricketing father Jimmy.
The elder Cook was also well-versed in the art of biding his
time, having earned his first call-up for South Africa at the age of 39 after
scoring runs by the ton as opening batsman for what used to be Transvaal’s
With a teaching degree behind his name, he was also a highly
rated first-division soccer player for Wits and later became the cricket
manager at UJ.
There could not have been a prouder man in South Africa than
Stephen James Cook the day Stephen Craig Cook became the sixth South African to
score a century on Test debut.
Jimmy had to cancel an overseas trip to watch his lad play
in his first Test match, but was just too happy to do so. Also watching his
heroics at SuperSport Park were Stephen’s mother Linsey, his wife Laura and
their little daughter Elianna.
Cook junior rewrote the record books in 2009 when he scored
390 runs - the first triple “ton” for the Lions - against the Warriors in a
As one of the few current international cricketers who boast
a university degree, he intends to concentrate on his cricket career for a
while still before, perhaps, putting his qualifications to good use.