Alviro Petersen: KL Rahul's hundred finest by a sub-continental opener in South Africa

The former South African batter weighed in on the state of his country's cricket team and the formidable challenge posed by Virat Kohli's men.

Alviro Petersen finished with 2093 Test runs in 36 matches at a creditable average of 34.88.   -  S. DINAKAR

Alviro Petersen’s eyes, which picked out the little things around him on a rainy, gloomy day, revealed the kind of resilience that enabled him to 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 Sportstar in Centurion on Monday.

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.  

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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, AB de Villiers, Ashwell Prince and Jean-Paul Duminy. Now there are holes in Proteas’ line-up.

Petersen felt the quality of domestic competition had gone down in South Africa. “Domestic cricket is not producing quality cricketers anymore. 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 for his unbeaten century. “It is the finest hundred I have seen from a sub-continental opener in South African conditions.”

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 batters play. “The length was too short,” he complained.

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 (on Sunday) showed however good you might look, you are never quite `in’ on these South African pitches.”

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