If any young player needs an example of what it takes to be the ultimate professional, they need not look any further than Gauteng's Stephen Cook.
As he will be in action this weekend for his province in the Africa T20 Cup in Potchefstroom.
The 34-years-old bizhub Highveld Lions captain, specialist opening batsman who is on a great run of form will increase the Gauteng’s attacking arsenal and adds plenty of experience and leadership.
He has played almost 15 seasons of first-class cricket. He has achieved the highest level of success, having been part of the Standard Bank Proteas squad that claimed a historic hat-trick of Test series victories in Australia last year.
"It's an opportunity to get some matches in before the season and it's a nice little challenge," Cook said.
It is no secret that he has not played much of a role in the bizhub Highveld Lions' T20 campaigns, but he will now be expected to feature much more after being appointed the franchise's captain across formats for the 2017/2018 season.
"I haven't played much T20 cricket, so the more games I can play the better," Cook explained. "It wasn't the original plan, with me and Aaron Phangiso selected to guide the youngsters along, but it has worked out nicely," he said.
Cook won't lead Gauteng this weekend with wicket-keeper Mangaliso Mosehle handed the reins at Senwes Park. That will, however, in no way impact on the experience Cook will bring to the dressing room with the young Gauteng players advised to watch the veteran closely.
In fact, Cook remembers fondly when he was he was still a young law student at the University of Johannesburg, which was still known as the Rand Afrikaans University (RAU) back in 2003, the impact Gauteng’s senior players at the time had on his development.
"I can only look back at my own experiences at what guys like Clive Eksteen, Derek Crookes, David Tebrugge and the profound impact they had on my career. I can only hope that in 15 years or so, a young player says that guy made a difference in my career. That's the ultimate compliment. At the same time, though, you are learning from young players too," Cook said.
Gauteng coach Sandile Masengemi is excited about having Cook's experience for this weekend challenging group alongside neighbours North West, Northerns and defending champions Eastern Province.
"There is no doubt it's a tough group. All the teams are strong. But that's where you see what people are about in the tough situations. There is always someone that steps up on the day," he said.
Gauteng Africa Cup Squad: Mangaliso Mosehle (captain, w/k), Nandre Burger, Stephen Cook, Yassar Cook, Tshepang Dithole, Matt McGillivray, Aaron Phangiso, Shaylen Pillay, Nono Pongolo, Delano Potgieter, Ryan Rickelton, Zaid Saloojee and Farhaan Sayanvala