India in SA

Peterson confirms SA value

2011-01-22 15:28
Robin Peterson (File)
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – Robin Peterson has gone a long way to putting paid to any notion that he will go to the World Cup as some sort of “passenger” for South Africa.

Not that he really needed to, because most astute and fair-minded cricket enthusiasts are fully aware of what he brings to the party, even if he will probably never fall into the small, genuinely superstar category of international cricketers.

But his competent, influential all-round performance in the Proteas’ rain-affected yet deserved victory over India in the fourth one-day international at Port Elizabeth on Friday was nevertheless timely.

A certain lobby, you see, appears to have targeted Peterson - among one or two others - for derision because of their misguided and perhaps even bigoted perception that he is the beneficiary of political considerations in the make-up of the 15-man squad.

They might have had a case roughly along those lines four years ago, when there was probably a fiercer clamour from the corridors of governance for black representation in the tour group for the Caribbean World Cup.

Then, the semi-fit and ageing seam bowler Roger Telemachus, in particular, was all too clearly the “15th member” of the squad and did not get a single game.

It is true that Peterson was not exactly over-employed at that World Cup either, but he was responsible for one of the lingering South African memories from it, hitting the priceless winning boundary as the Proteas squeezed out Sri Lanka by one wicket in a Guyana nail-biter.

There are some debatable choices again for the 2011 CWC squad, yes, and selection is always a matter a little more complex in our country than any other.

But there are sound and essentially orthodox cricketing reasons for the Eastern Cape-born Peterson making the cut for the Subcontinent challenge, and those qualities were in evidence as South Africa levelled the ODI series 2-2 at St George’s Park.

Certainly they did not reveal any evidence of a player happy to simply carry towels and energy drinks around for several weeks abroad.

Commentator and former national captain Kepler Wessels hit the nail on the head with regard to Peterson’s contribution, continually referring to the welcome “balancing” he brought to the team after replacing out-of-touch Wayne Parnell in the starting XI at his old home ground.

Not only were the Proteas able to field a second specialist spinner for the first time in the series, on a pitch not dissimilar to some of those they will encounter at the World Cup, but Peterson also helped trim the formerly expansive length of the South African tail with the vital assurance he demonstrated in the No 8 position.

It seems you still have to be on suicide watch at times with this team: somehow they contrived to turn a great start, after batting first, into a situation where they lost four top-order wickets in a disastrous, maddening quarter of an hour, crashing to 118 for five in some of the most self-destructive ways imaginable.

But the inclusion of Peterson also meant that at last the Proteas boasted more clout in the lower regions of the order, and his and Johan Botha’s beefy partnerships with man-of-the-match JP Duminy enabled them to claw back to post an altogether more swollen, ultimately match-winning total.

Afterwards Duminy rightly praised both Botha and Peterson for their sprightly aid in the running-between-the-wickets department, and he might have added his finishing partner Dale Steyn for good measure as well – he too has great awareness and stealth in that regard.

Peterson actually dominated his stand of 54 in exactly 10 overs with Duminy from a scoring perspective, combining good “touch” play with some more expansive strokes; remember that the former also offers possibilities as a pinch-hitter higher up the order if necessary.

And later he chipped in importantly with the ball. Like all spinners at St George’s Park, you will sometimes to be vulnerable to six-hitting onslaught because of the relatively small straight boundaries, but he kept his cool to snare the wickets of Suresh Raina – AB de Villiers’ second stumping in ODIs – and Indian captain MS Dhoni.

Shaun Pollock made the point in commentary that the left-arm spinner has worked hard to add to his standard delivery, now including a top-spinner and occasional wrong ‘un in his repertoire.

Keep in mind that Peterson had also bowled decently on the slow pitches of Dubai and Abu Dhabi against Pakistan not too long ago, so this World Cup could yet turn into an opportunity for the 31-year-old to belatedly confirm he “belongs” in the green strip.

Peterson also enhances standards in the fielding department, either inside or beyond the ring, especially as he is notably ambidextrous.

I think he deserves to travel to CWC 2011 with a broader salvo of good wishes than he is getting.

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