Veteran Puttick under pressure to up the ante
SIX years ago, Andrew Puttick was called into then Cape Cobras coach Shukri Conrad’s office down in the dungeon at Newlands and told that he was not going to join the team on their maiden journey to India for the Champions League T20.
Conrad was hedging his bets on the experience of then Proteas captain Graeme Smith and a slugger hauled from the gallows of club cricket called Derek Brand. It was a bitter pill to swallow for Puttick, who had by then become a fixture at the top of the Cobras/ Western Province batting order for close on a decade.
History will tell us that Smith was forced to withdraw through injury on the eve of departure, though, which opened the door for Puttick to come in and lead the Cobras to a semi-final spot. He also vindicated his return with a glorious 104 not out off 62 balls against the Otago Volts in a roundrobin match in Hyderabad. It certainly made for a romantic story, especially with Puttick being one of the supreme gentlemen on the domestic circuit.
At 34, Puttick remains a valuable member of the Cobras unit, especially in the firstclass and 50-over formats of the game.
His relaxed presence at the crease often has a calming effect on his teammates, while the benefit of being able to keep wicket is an extra bonus, especially when Dane Vilas is on Test duty with the Proteas.
Importantly, he still also has the ability to churn out runs consistently, hence the left-hander being the leading runscorer for the Cobras in the Ram Slam T20 Challenge so far this season.
For all these positive attributes, though, the same concerns Conrad had about the lanky left-hander within the unique specifications of Twenty20 cricket all those years ago remain very much in the present.
Puttick has often been the ideal foil for the explosive Richard Levi in the One Day Cup, but he has to show greater urgency at the crease in the shortest format of the game.
A strike-rate of 107.37 – especially when having the luxury of six powerplay overs of fielding restrictions – is simply not good enough at this level. Bowlers don’t mind having someone like that at the wicket because they know that they are not going to come under threat anytime soon.
This might sound like harsh criticism but it is a reality, especially when you take into account where the game is headed. The make-up of the Cobras batting unit, with Omphile Ramela coming in at No 3, also does not make provision for another batsman playing an anchor-type role.
At least Ramela – albeit to his demise on occasion – has shown the necessary intent at the crease in a bid to increase the tempo of the innings.
The Cobras have a crucial fixture against the in-form Dolphins at Centurion tomorrow (start 12pm). The absence of two of the table-toppers’ leading bowlers Kyle Abbott (Test call-up) and Prenelan Subrayen (suspension) will benefit the Cobras’ cause tremendously.
Subrayen’s ban for an illegal bowling action is particularly a big blow to the KwaZulu-Natal franchise, as the off-spinner has been in red-hot form thus far in the competition.
He is the leading wickettaker with eight scalps, at average of 15.12 and will no doubt leave a massive void to fill.
Puttick will hope that he can maximise the opportunities he will receive off the bowlers coming into the Dolphins team. He will need to do it at a rapid rate, too, or his current Cobras coach Paul Adams may need to make some tough calls fairly soon.
PRENELAN SUBRAYEN: Banned for illegal action