Featured in the latest edition of SA Cricket magazine, we chatted to Titans star Heino Kuhn about the successful season that led him to win two CSA awards.
What did you do differently this season compared to other seasons that helped you perform so well?
Rob [Walter, Titans head coach] and I have been working on some technical things over the last couple of years, like my patience at the crease and playing straighter; not looking for that wide drive. Other than the little technical things I’ve been doing, I think it’s more that I’ve got my life together. I’m very big on my Christianity now and my relationship with God is very good now. I’m more at peace with myself and I take that with me onto the pitch. It’s that patience and peace that I’ve got at the crease that makes me feel ‘whatever happens, happens’, but I’m still going to be loved by my family and friends.
Is that sort of calmness at the crease important in order to perform week in/week out?
Definitely. It’s already difficult facing a bowler coming at you at 140-150km/h so if you’re thinking about too many things cricket is going to be very difficult for you, especially thinking about things that could go wrong, like am I going to be picked for the next game or are the selectors going to choose me? But I think that’s the big problem we’ve got [in South Africa], you never really know where you stand with all the politics in selections. If you are able to forget about that and just enjoy the game that’s already half the battle won.
Did you have any expectations ahead of the season?
I did say because it’s my benefit year that I want to make this my best year and I think it has been. However, my aim was just to enjoy my cricket more than I have in the past. There weren’t really any expectations, though, but I’ve always said that I wanted to play Test cricket for South Africa and it’s still one of my big aspirations, so that’s always motivation for me.
You chased down 66 runs in 6.4 overs with Grant Mokoena to win on day three against the Cobras in December. Would you say that your ability to play in different scenarios has improved over the years, and how important is that in today’s game?
Definitely, it’s something I’ve worked on. I used to think I was only good in the longer form of the game. You never know what’s going to happen on the next day, whether it’s going to rain all day or not. Grant and I said we’re just going to play every ball on merit. Grant, in his first proper season for the Titans, said he’s just going to play his normal game, which is to attack and put the ball away if it’s there to be hit, which he did well. That gave me confidence to kick on and play positively as well. It was great to be able to learn from each other in that situation.
How did you manage your time during the during the One Day Cup and what was your mindset after being out of four-day cricket for a month?
I just kept on enjoying my cricket and playing the different scenarios. You don’t really switch off, you just maintain that positive mindset and hopefully it continues when you switch back to the four-day game.
What have you done to be able to peak at this stage of your career, after 10 years with the Titans?
I don’t like to complicate the game; I’m a see-ball-hit-ball kind of batsman. I don’t have a No 1 bat that I use or rituals and other little things I do before a game. So I haven’t changed anything really, I’ve just kept on enjoying my game and focusing on being still and calm at the crease, with a clear mind.
Your role as a specialist batsmen this season … has that been a significant factor in your success?
It’s definitely helped. Keeping wicket for 100 overs and then having to open the batting takes a bit out of you and you get a bit fatigued. With my back operation last year, I don’t think I would have been able to keep wicket as well. It also takes a bit of pressure off not having to worry about taking the gloves after or before I’ve batted – I was able to just enjoyed my batting.
What you are thoughts on the state of the domestic game at the moment?
I’ve had this question many times. I don’t think our cricket has declined that much, but I definitely feel that the competitiveness has dwindled a bit – there’s no more chirping happening and if there is a incident the umpires are quick to get involved. I’d still like to have that element of competitiveness in the game. However, we’ve got a lot of good domestic players. Maybe it’s not where it was five years ago, but it’s still very decent cricket.
How have transformation guidelines have affected the game?
Players like Kagiso Rabada and Temba Bavuma, who have come through the ranks in recent years, have gone on and done brilliantly with the Proteas. As players we mustn’t make a big fuss about it and just continue playing the game, and if you have to sit out then you must sit out, just enjoy the game and take the opportunities you get. Though, I wouldn’t want there to be a situation where we chase away a lot of young kids who want to play the game because of those guidelines.
How can we improve the domestic game?
I think one way the game has in fact improved in the last couple of years, especially at the Titans, is that we are playing winning cricket. We don’t want to settle for draws anymore, and there haven’t been that many in franchise cricket, from all the teams. I think that’s one way we can continue to make our domestic game stronger.
Do you see yourself working your way into Proteas Test side as a specialist batsman?
I’m not a keeper anymore, so I’m definitely going to have to get in as a batsman. I feel I’ve played my best four-day cricket this past season and if it happens then it happens. If it doesn’t happen then I’ll keep on trying to get those big 100s and keep knocking on the door. If someone gets injured I want my name to be on top of the list of possible replacements.
Stephen Cook made his debut at 33 years old, does that motivate or inspire you that you could still get your chance?
That means I still have a couple years to make my debut, so that’s a good sign. At the moment I’m just enjoying my cricket. If I keep on scoring and I get selected I’ll be ecstatic, but if I keep on scoring and they don’t pick me then so be it. I’m still going to love the game and play my best.