CAPE TOWN - For the best part of the past 17 years, the slender figure of Andrew Puttick has walked out first for either Western Province or the Cape Cobras to take guard and face the new red ball.
If he has been absent on the odd occasion, it was often to due to the return of national stars such as Gary Kirsten, Herschelle Gibbs or Graeme Smith in a bygone era.
But rarely - if ever - has Puttick been dropped from the first-class arena due to lack of performance. However, that is exactly what has occurred this week with the lanky left-hander omitted for Monday's first home Sunfoil Series clash against the Warriors at Newlands.
Despite batsmen all around the country taking full advantage of the feather beds that have been produced at the beginning of this domestic season, Puttick has failed to capitalise with scores of 22, 8, 18, 14 and 19 thus far.
It would still have been a difficult decision, though, to deem a player with 170 matches worth of first-class experience surplus to requirements, especially when the Cobras are already fielding such a youthful outfit.
“It definitely wasn’t an easy decision,” Cobras captain Dane Piedt said. “There was a long selection meeting and eventually it was decided upon. It is an opportunity for a young batsman to put up his hand and take the opportunity that has come his way.”
The Cobras are certainly committed to investing in the young talent in the Western Cape this season with the former champions also resisting the temptation to bolster their batting unit with the experienced Stiaan van Zyl.
The classy left-hander has just returned from a successful maiden Kolpak season for Sussex in the English County Championship, and was also the Cobras’ leading run-scorer in the Sunfoil Series last term, with 709 runs at an average 47.26.
However, due to Van Zyl’s Kolpak status, he is not eligible to be selected for the Proteas, which is why the Cobras have opted to move Simon Khomari up the order instead, with the promising all-rounder Jason Smith returning to the team.
“We understand that we have a very young team. And that comes with a whole set of challenges. But we are not going to hide behind it or use it as excuse if things don’t go our way,” the Cobras skipper explained.
“We are committed to producing players for the Proteas. Perhaps in the past there was an over-reliance on winning and not developing the talent we have here in the Western Cape.
“At the same time we know we have to win games too, so we will quickly find out who the young guys are who can stand up to the pressure,” added Piedt.
With experienced seamers Dane Paterson and Wayne Parnell still on national duty in the on-going ODI series against Bangladesh, the Cobras selectors have made just one change to the bowling unit with Mthiwekhaya Nabe replacing Tshepo Moreki in the line-up.
Cape Cobras squad: Dane Piedt (capt), Michael Cohen, Zubayr Hamza, Simon Khomari, Pieter Malan, Aviwe Mgijima, Justin Ontong, George Linde, Jason Smith, Kyle Verreynne, Lizaad Williams, Mthiwekhaya Nabe, Dayyaan Galiem.