Vet­eran Puttick un­der pres­sure to up the ante

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - ZAAHIER ADAMS

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

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