Former South African batsman Heino Kuhn, in an exclusive chat with SportsCafe, has revealed that he took the Kolpak deal last year after being informed by the selectors that he wasn’t in their plans. Kuhn, who represented SA in 4 Tests and 7 T20Is, has been plying his trade with Kent since 2018.
It is, arguably, every young cricketer’s dream to represent their country at the international level and more so, to make their debut at the Home of Cricket. One such cricketer who did indeed turn that dream into a reality was Heino Kuhn. An extremely agile wicket-keeper who was also a flamboyant top-order batsman, Kuhn toiled hard for 12 years with his domestic franchise Titans before finally making his Test debut at Lord’s in 2017.
“It was a surreal feeling to make Test debut at Lord's and definitely something I imagine every kid dreams about,” Kuhn recalled his debut, speaking exclusively to SportsCafe.
Kuhn knocked hard on the door of the selectors by posting colossal numbers in first-class cricket. In the two seasons that preceded his Test debut, Kuhn averaged 43.91 and 57.95 in the four-day competition and his efforts were finally rewarded as he was summoned upon by the Proteas as a specialist batsman to open alongside Dean Elgar for the team’s tour of England in 2017.
However, things did not go as expected for the South African, who could only manage a high score of 34 from his eight innings. Eventually, he was then replaced by Aiden Markram at the top of the order and with age not on his side, Kuhn had a big decision to make. After conversing with the selectors and getting to know that he wasn’t in their plans, Kuhn, like many a South African player in the past, opted to instead sign a Kolkpak deal with county side Kent.
“Well I was getting to the back end of my career and the South African selectors told me I wasn't in their plans going forward and that they were looking for some young players to take over. So for me, it was a pretty easy decision to make,” he said on why he eventually decided to take the Kolpak deal.
Perhaps this sheds some new light onto the whole Kolpak controversy as more often than not, players are thrown under the bus and are blamed for taking the easy way out in quest of earning more money.
In 2018, Kuhn was an integral part of Kent’s promotion from the second division to the first division of the County Championships and now, he finds himself as an important player across all three formats. Having now gotten a fair idea and assessment about the quality of first-class cricket in both countries, Kuhn has lavished praise on the quality of cricket on display, while stating that the contrasting conditions are the only major difference.
“First-class cricket in both South Africa and England has very good quality with some amazing international players. The only difference is probably the pitches in SA are more bouncy with more pace and in England with the Duke ball there's a lot more movement in air and from the pitch,” he said.
Having made his international debut a short while after turning 33, Kuhn had to grind out the runs and drudge for more than a decade before eventually getting an international call-up. While his international career didn’t quite take off as expected, he is, nevertheless, an inspiration for many a cricketer who is toiling hard on the domestic circuit. Kuhn has a special advice to all the youngsters who are aspiring to become international cricketers.
“Don't ever stop dreaming and working hard to achieve your dreams. God has a plan for us all and He knows exactly when the right time is and what you need. Keep on dreaming and believing and keep loving the game.” he signed off.
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