South African team is searching for its identity, says Alviro Petersen

Alviro Petersen made his Test debut, against India at the Eden Gardens in 2010

Alviro Petersen’s eyes, that picked out the little things around him on a rainy, gloomy day revealed the kind of resilience that enabled him carve out a successful career for South Africa after toiling in the domestic circuit for long. He formed a fruitful partnership with Graeme Smith at the top of the order and finished with 2093 Test runs in 36 matches at a creditable average of 34.88 batting in difficult seamer-friendly conditions.

“This South African team is searching for its identity,” he said in a chat with The Hindu in Centurion on Monday.

Transitional phase

He added, “There have been so many retirements and the team is going through a transitional phase.” Was Dean Elgar the best man for captaincy? “We do not have anyone else at the moment. Perhaps Aiden Markram but he is still young,” he said.

When Petersen made his Test debut, against India at the Eden Gardens in 2010, the South African line-up had Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, A.B. de Villiers, Ashwell Prince and Jean-Paul Duminy. Now there are holes in the Proteas’ line-up.

Petersen felt the quality of domestic competition had gone down in South Africa. “Domestic cricket is not producing quality cricketers any more. Previously, we had six teams and all of them were strong. Now we have 11 teams and have many mediocre players in there.”

The 41-year-old South African opener was mighty impressed with the 117-run opening partnership between K.L. Rahul and Mayank Agarwal.

He said, “To me it was a statement of intent. They were putting a marker and saying we are here to fight and win. The partnership set the tone for the series.”

Petersen lavished praise on Rahul’s unbeaten century. “It is the finest hundred I have seen from a sub-continental opener in South African conditions.”

Always in control

He elaborated, “Rahul left so well. And he made them bowl to him. He was patient, waited before playing his shots and was always in control. And he handled the short-pitched bowling so well.”

Petersen said the South African pacemen should pitch the ball up and make the Indian batsmen play.

He had a lot of respect for the Indian pace pack. “They bowl to a game-plan. Bumrah is the spearhead. He pushes the batsmen back and the follow-up delivery is fantastic.”

On big runs eluding India skipper Virat Kohli, Petersen said, “All great batsmen go through such phases. But his dismissal yesterday showed however good you might look, you are never quite ‘in’ on these South African pitches.”

Like us all, Petersen is craving for brightness and sunshine at Centurion.

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