On the surface, that would seem like the obvious thing for them to do. I mean, these are the people who ignored the opener’s prolific local form and opted to try and transform Stiaan van Zyl into the specialist role and at long last had to give in after the latter’s poor form and huge pressure to give Cook a go.
There would have been plenty of reactions from the selectors during the debutant’s superb knock in his first international outing like being surprised or maybe even a sense of relief, but cringing … no way. What Cook’s hundred potentially meant for the wellbeing of cricket in this country is way too valuable to harness any negative thoughts. Even among the bunch of stubborn bastards the national panel can be.
You see, the game isn’t exactly in a pretty state locally right now. The Proteas have plunged off their pedestal as the world’s best Test side, the debate around the gap between local and international cricket widening is grow ing stronger and white players are even said to be considering striking in protest over increased transformation implemented this season.
Then I’m not even talking about the bad press the whole Gulam Bodi match-fixing affair has given South African cricket around the world. But on top of this heap of manure overwhelming the game, a flower still managed to blossom last week.
Make no mistake, at 33 Cook isn’t a seedling anymore, but rather a battle-hardened bush that kept on blooming in the hope of getting the sunshine he had so dearly craved his whole life. I can understand the value of black Proteas stars Kagiso Rabada and Temba Bavuma in the big drive to lure more and more youngsters to the game. Having role models to inspire youngsters is just what the doctor ordered as far as transformation goes.
But like Bavuma has inspired plenty of black youngsters to one day score a Test hundred for the Proteas too, so does Cook’s ton have to potential to inspire white youngsters to never give up on their dreams. There are plenty of cases of good 20-something white players swapping a career in cricket for a suit and a tie in the face of franchise contracts getting fewer every season amid the increasing political demands.
Sure it’s tough, but Cook has proved it is not impossible. If he can hold out to into his 30s, then there is hope for the despairing 20-somethings. And the more quality players who stay committed to the game, the healthier the level of the local game will be.