When Heino Kuhn’s name appeared on the Proteas’ Test squad list, the irony was rather big.
Not because the Titans stalwart was actually selected but rather because of the man he replaced: Stephen Cook.
It’s uncanny how both men – Kuhn is 33 and Cook 34 – have now tread similar paths to the pinnacle format of the game.
For years, the duo have been some of the most prolific batters in franchise cricket.
And for essentially all those years, they hardly got a look-in at the highest level as the Graeme Smith-era inspired Proteas proved remarkably successful.
But as some stars retired, others faltered and various chose the Kolpak route to England, South African cricket suddenly realised it can’t be biased towards established franchise veterans.
More importantly, Cook and Kuhn are one of very few previously ignored domestic players that didn’t give in to the riches of England’s county circuit.
Proteas Test squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Dean Elgar, Heino Kuhn, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Duanne Olivier, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.
When Cook scored a century on Test debut against England 18 months ago, everyone rejoiced.
It was a fitting reward for a man who has done much for domestic cricket.
To be honest, it also bought him time last season as he began to struggle and questions over his technique resurfaced.
That time is now up.
Filling the void is Kuhn, a man some felt probably deserved to be given a chance before Cook because he possesses a stylish technique that has less holes than his Lions compatriot.
Also, he’s just been as loyal to South African cricket as Cook.
“I’m very happy just playing in and for South Africa,” Kuhn said in January after being included in the T20 squad against Sri Lanka.
“I want to finish my career in South Africa. I don’t think there’s any chance of me doing the whole Kolpak thing. I can’t anyway due to the rules, so that helps a lot.”
Unlike the rest of his South Africa A teammates on their tour to England, Kuhn has been in outstanding form.
He scored an unbeaten 81 in the first one-dayer against the England Lions, made an unbeaten 200 against Hampshire and stroked a superb 105 off only 118 balls in the “Test” against the English Lions.
It’s a string of scores that was simply too good to ignore.
“He certainly deserved his place on consistent form which also includes back-to-back Sunfoil Series seasons,” said Linda Zondi, the national convener of selectors.
Naturally, it’s very hard on the uncomplaining Cook.
Yet some critics will say it’s probably a writing of a wrong anyway.