It’s been a frenzied time for Michael Cohen, whose meteoric rise has seen him go from playing for the Western Province U17 ‘B’ side to taking a five-for for the Cape Cobras in just over a year.
The left-arm fast bowler stands at 1.77m, which is short for a traditional paceman, but he still manages to reach mid-130km/h, fooling batsmen with skiddy deliveries and a perfectly-disguised bouncer.
The 19-year-old described his journey as ‘surreal’, as he worked his way up the ranks, turning heads as he burst on to the scene.
It didn’t come easy for Cohen to earn recognition, though, as his selection in 2015 for the U19 WP Coca-Cola Khaya Majola side was controversial. He was brought into the squad as an injury replacement for Matthew Strauss, after putting in good performances for the Western Province Cricket Club’s first team.
Eyebrows were raised, but he soon silenced his critics by turning in with figures of 2-11 from seven overs in his first match, following with 3-20 in seven overs in his second and 0-28 in nine overs of his final game for Western Province in the 2015-16 tournament.
Speaking to SA Cricket magazine, Cohen discussed his selection for the Coke Week side. ‘I was called up from the U17B team and there were a few doubters who reckoned the selection wasn’t justified,’ he said. ‘It may not have been performance-related, but more the fact they felt the selection should have come from either the U19B or, at the very least, the U17A squad.’
After his second Khaya Majola Week in December 2016, Cohen played for SA Schools, SA U19, SA Emerging, a CSA XI and then made his Cobras debut – all in the space of 10 months.
It was a remarkable feat for a youngster whose alma mater isn’t one of the traditional sports conveyer belts.
‘Reddam House is not renowned for its cricket, but it gave me a massive academic advantage,’ he says. ‘I went to Western Province Cricket Club to play at a higher level and to challenge myself against the best players there were at the time. This was something I couldn’t do at Reddam. I made a few provincial teams in high school, but they were all “B” teams.’
Graham October, a CSA scout and academy manager, gushes about the young man’s ability.
‘Mikey is an exceptional talent,’ he tells SA Cricket magazine. ‘He’s humble, works hard and is extremely intelligent. He has the attributes to go all the way. Sometimes his intelligence is his downfall, however, because he overthinks things. As a youngster, he should just take the ball and bowl – not try to over-analyse everything. I’ve seen a lot of talent come through, but Mikey is a cut above the rest.’
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