When Stephen Cook started out as a 18-year-old first-class cricketer for Gauteng, the former Proteas seamer David Terbrugge offered him sage advice.
“I think he had a feeling that I might play for a long while on the domestic circuit. So he came over to me and said: ‘Watch out when you reach 30. Everybody’s going to think you’re 50!’,” the Highveld Lions skipper and out-of-favour Proteas opener reminisced on Thursday.
There’s indeed a touch of irony to his story.
After being dropped for the Test series against England, various observers believed that Cook’s short international career is over.
Much of that argument is also based on his age: 34.
“This conversation over the Proteas’ opening partnership seems to be complicated one. It’s been written from many perspectives,” said Cook.
“I firmly believe I can still do a good job in Test cricket. So much gets written about this age thing. I had to check my ID book the other day! It started to feel like I’m 64 instead of 34! I really don’t see this age debate as an issue.”
The dogged right-hand batsman backed up those words with deeds a few weeks ago.
Cook was an outstanding performer for South Africa A in their “Test” series against India A, scoring 320 runs at an average of 106.
That haul included a gritty 120 and two fifties.
It also illustrates pointedly how tough times and setbacks simply can’t seem to keep the man down.
“In the end, I got to play 10 Tests more than I ever dreamed of,” said Cook.
“I got a taste and I really enjoyed the challenge. Even when things were incredibly tough – in Australia and New Zealand – I loved it. I loved being under that scrutiny and testing myself. I’m constantly aware that I can’t be happy with the status quo. I’ve gone back to domestic cricket and did some hard graft.”
The probable sad thing about that sentiment is that it might not be rewarded again.
With young Aiden Markram impressing as South Africa A leader and opener, the national selectors might opt for the future.
But it won’t stop Cook from still trying.