I can’t tell you exactly how long it’s been, but it feels somewhere close to 10 years. That’s how long I’ve been saying the name “Andrew Puttick” around the braai, in the bar or around the sports field. When any Protea batsman is out of form and people are asking “Who’s next?” or “Who could replace him?” – my answer has generally been, Andrew Puttick.
At the age of 34, he has slim to no chance of ever being a Protea, and I find it fascinating that he’s never managed to get there. Is Andrew Puttick the unluckiest cricketer in South Africa?
Back in 1999, when Donald and Klusener were deciding whether to run or not, South Africa’s next crop of talent was being bred at the U19 World Cup. Johan Botha, Jacques Rudolph, Thami Tsolekile and Jonathan Trott made up a powerhouse side. Puttick opened the batting for this side, along with some bloke called Graeme Smith. All these players managed to get a Test cap (not only SA caps, but English too) except for Puttick.
So why didn’t he make the Protea side and score a bucket load of runs like Smith? I think he’s just plain unlucky. You often hear the phrase “born in the wrong generation” thrown around. I heard Ricky Ponting mention it a few days ago when talking about Stuart MacGill. If the Australian was born in any other country or at a different time, he could have taken 500 wickets. He amassed 208 in just 44 Tests, picking up five wickets in an innings 12 times. He only played 44 Tests because he happened to be competing with the genius that is Shane Warne.
I think it’s the same with Puttick. When I would throw Puttick’s name out in response to the “Who’s next?” question, my mates would respond with something like “Where would you fit him in?”. I was never really able to answer the question.
For a long time in domestic cricket, Puttick averaged around 50. Around the early 2000s, South Africa had a top three of Gary Kirsten, Herschelle Gibbs and Jacques Kallis. Realistically, Puttick is a top three batsmen and wouldn’t take one of these guys place. In 2003, Graeme Smith was captain of the Proteas and was joined in the top three by Kirsten and Gibbs. In 2006, we had Smith, De Villiers and Rudolph in the top three. This would have been Puttick’s best chance to get into the side, but the opportunity never came. In 2010, we had Smith, Petersen and Amla and there’s probably many people, with the benefit of hindsight, that would rather have taken a chance on Puttick than stick with Petersen whose overall Test average was a below par, 34.
A huge plus is that Puttick can keep wicket too. When Boucher retired, I wondered whether we could try and find a place for him, give him the gloves and possibly have him as a wicketkeeper/batsman, allowing AB de Villiers to focus on batting alone.
With 22 centuries and 37 half centuries in domestic cricket, I really think Andrew Puttick is tragically unlucky to never have received a Test call-up in South Africa. He has racked up 9,186 first-class runs, and will go well beyond 10 000 in time, at an average 41, with a highest score of 250 Not-Out. With only one national call-up for an ODI in 2004 where he failed to score, you have to wonder, what could have been? Could Smith, Puttick, Kallis and Amla have been our top four for the better part of the last decade? We’ll never know.
I’ve always been a big fan, so maybe I’m looking through rose tinted glasses, but what are your thoughts on the mystery of Andrew Puttick? Can you think of a cricketer in our domestic league that has deserved a national call up more? Let us know at @Leftbacks on Twitter.