CAPE TOWN - In this modern age of the T20 merry-go-round where players change teams, uniforms and “home” grounds on an almost monthly basis, Andrew Puttick is a throwback to a bygone era.
Classic in stance and appearance, Puttick has always been a one-team and one-stadium man. For close on 20 years, the easy-going left-hander only played out of Newlands since he finished school around the corner at Rondebosch Boys’ High School, representing his beloved Western Province, Western Province-Boland and the Cape Cobras with aplomb.
There have been many attempts to lure Puttick away to greener pastures, but the invitation was always declined. Few players have ever shown such loyalty to one team and it is debatable whether there will ever be another Puttick again after he finally hung up his whites at the end of the 2017-18 season.
The early days would have been particularly tough for Puttick. Despite nearly always performing when he had the opportunity to show off his undoubted talent, such as a maiden first-class century when he was just 19-years-old, the then curly-haired surfer was still often the first to be dropped upon the return of Proteas top-order stars such as Herschelle Gibbs, Gary Kirsten and Jacques Kallis from international duty.
The arrival of Graeme Smith in Cape Town from Gauteng in 2000-01 was another challenge for a young Puttick to contend with, especially as the pair had opened the batting together for the South Africa Under-19 team just a year earlier.
But even as he watched Smith’s career bloom into unprecedented heights with the Proteas, and his long-time school friend Jonathan Trott’s with his adopted country England, Puttick remained loyal to Province and the Cobras.
There were some who questioned Puttick’s ambition, but it definitely wasn't due to a lack of hard work and effort. He simply believed that if he continued to score runs, especially in the first-class arena where he was particularly prolific, his chance to play for SA would come.
End of an Era for Andrew Puttick. Fantastic career, player and Human being for Western Province and Cape Cobras Cricket. We wish him everything of the very best. pic.twitter.com/7Hx28BlC0A
There were flirtations with the national team. Puttick toured Sri Lanka with the Proteas in 2004 when Gibbs was serving his match-fixing ban, and also played a sole ODI when he was rushed to Newlands on the morning of the match against New Zealand as an emergency replacement from Paarl where he was playing a first-class match.
Needless to say, it was not an ideal way to begin a successful international career and Puttick lasted just five balls. It would ultimately be the only five balls Puttick faced in international cricket, as he fell victim to SA’s penchant of transforming middle-order batsmen into Test openers.
And even when the pendulum eventually swung the way of the “traditional” opener after Smith decided to spend more time with his family, the selectors still looked past Puttick and opted for Stephen Cook instead.
Ultimately, though, Puttick’s best was kept for WP and the Cobras. Just under 11 000 first-class runs in 173 matches, which included 27 centuries, at average of 40.27 and a further 5 288 runs in 172 matches speaks volumes of his contribution to cricket in the Western Cape.
Having been reared in a winning culture at WP, Puttick was devoted to playing a central role in helping the Cobras become the dominant force in the franchise era after a couple of lean years.
Always the ultimate “team man”, Puttick donned the wicket-keeping gloves in the 2008-09 Pro20 to help the Cobras lift only their second title. The Pro20 success kick-started a golden era for Puttick and the Cobras with the Sunfoil Series returning to Newlands the following season too.
A huge congratulations to Andrew Puttick for an incredible career. A star on the field and a gentleman off it. Good luck for the next chapter! pic.twitter.com/puH5CydiIA
The Newlands trophy cabinet overflowed afterwards with three more four-day titles, a further three One-Day Cups (two shared) and a couple of T20 titles annexed by the time 2015 rolled in.
And even when dark clouds gathered around former coach Paul Adams and playing for the Cobras became more of a chore than a joy around 2016, Puttick continued to provide great service.
It could have been easy to walk away from the game and plough all of his energy into his flourishing embroidery business, but Puttick came back for another season with his sleeves rolled up to graft some more.
It was a considerable effort from Puttick as he was now sharing a Cobras dressing-room with players such as Kyle Verreynne and Dayyaan Galiem, who were still in diapers when he began his first-class career.
Considering he was not assured of a regular first-team place either due to new coach Ashwell Prince investing in the region’s talented young batsmen of the future, it was truly a remarkable effort.
GALLERY | Here are some of your winners from the 2017/28 @WorldSportsBet Cape Cobras' Awards Dinner - including Andrew Puttick, who received the Spirited Cricketer of the Year in honour of his more than 20 years of service to @wp_cricket. #CobrasAwards 🐍#SpiritedCricket 💪 pic.twitter.com/OdEU10e9oB
However, “Mother Cricket” has a way of looking after its good guys, and Puttick is certainly one of them, when the 37-year-old was recalled for the Cobras’ final three four-day games of the season.
It was not a sympathy call from Prince either. The former Proteas Test batsman wanted some solidity and experience at the top of the order, as the Cobras put in a major final push for the championship.
Untimately defeat to the Highveld Lions undid the Cobras’ chances of winning the title, but there was a fairy-tale ending for Puttick with the now grey-tinged left-hander signing off with a century in his final first-class innings.
It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
What Puttick's teammates had to say:
· End of an era for Andrew Puttick. Fantastic career, player and human being for Western Province and Cape Cobras Cricket. - Western Province coach Salieg Nackerdien
· Andrew Puttick has been a true stalwart. A humble servant of the game. - Former Cobras batsman Omphile Ramela
· It’s fitting that Andrew Puttick ends his playing career with a 100! The ultimate professional, immensely talented and unfortunate not to have played Test cricket for South Africa. The second part of life’s journey has just begun, all the very best to you. - Former WP and SA A coach Vincent Barnes
· It’s the end of an era at WPCA/Cobras Cricket where for 20 years the first name on the sheet has been that of Andrew Puttick. Congratulations on a stellar career Putters. Legend! - Cobras coach Ashwell Prince