ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

World Cup 2011

Practical Peterson makes the most of opportunities

Despite being under-rated for most of his career, Robin Peterson has shouldered the criticism, and has now started to enjoy his role in the South Africa team

Firdose Moonda

February 16, 2011

Comments: 17 | Text size: A | A

Robin Peterson during a training session, Durban, January 11, 2011
Robin Peterson enjoys bowling with fellow spinners Johan Botha and Imran Tahir © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Robin Peterson
Series/Tournaments: ICC Cricket World Cup
Teams: South Africa

There was some surprise when Robin Peterson was initially selected to play for South Africa in 2002. There has been surprise almost every time he has made an international appearance since then. There was surprise from some quarters when he was announced in the World Cup squad but the biggest surprise of all came when he emerged from South Africa's warm-up games as the highest wicket-taker with the five scalps, proof that maybe his inclusion is not so surprising after all.

Peterson's left-arm spin has been one of the most under-rated elements of South African cricket for some time. He has shouldered criticism from all sides, mostly from people who say that he is ineffective and doesn't turn the ball enough but Peterson has worn the condemnation bravely. "I don't play for people, I am playing for my country and for people who have been there for me from the start," he told ESPNcricinfo.

The ease with which Peterson brushes off the cynics is also a result of knowing that inconsistency in his selection may have spurred the naysayers on. He has been playing international cricket for eight years but has taken the field just 40 times in an ODI. Rarely has he made consecutive appearances in a series. "It's no fault of mine that I have not been in the starting eleven more often."

The constant question mark over his inclusion understandably made him anxious. "I was never settled and when that happens you are always trying to make sure you get picked for the next game." That sort of pressure would have been difficult to play under and Peterson said he was "always trying to put building blocks in place" in the past.

Now, things have changed, not just for Peterson but for South African cricket. Whereas as recently as a year ago, the starting line-up was almost always predictable, now there is a degree of uncertainty about positions in the middle order, which may have helped Peterson's own "mindset change" from being a bowler who was always trying to impress for the future to one who is willing to make the most of his present opportunities.

"I am being more myself now, which is maybe something I haven't done in the past. I have decided to do things my own way." Peterson is reverting to his "natural" game which is to "bowl aggressively," like he does at domestic level where he is a wicket-taker. His strike rate is 38.5 in List A games compared with 62.3 in ODIs, while his List A average is 29.45 compared to 50.33 in the green and gold. "I don't necessarily go out there and look to take five, but I do try as spin the ball as hard as I can and get it on a good length, and that always provides an opportunity to get a wicket."

Peterson emerged as an international cricketer in a South Africa where a comment like that would probably not have been made. Spinners were there to curb run flow and it was the seamers' job to think about how they could take wickets. In the past few months, that trend has changed. With the World Cup in mind, South Africa actively sought spinners so that they would have an attack that would suit the conditions. "It took South Africa a long time to wrap their heads around it but I think they have taken a step forward now."

The strategy has paid off so well that now all three of South African's frontline spinnes are bowling well and there is unlikely to be room for all of them in every match of the tournament. "If we can keep on giving the selectors these headaches then we are doing a good job." Peterson also said that he is relishing playing with his fellow tweakers. "I enjoy bowling with Imran [Tahir] and Johan [Botha]. We learn a lot from each other. Imran and I are the same age [31] and he is probably bowling his best at this age. Hopefully I will too."

What may give Peterson the edge over the other spinners is that he fulfils an allrounder's role and in this 15-man squad, is the second all-rounder behind Jacques Kallis. He is one of only four squad members to have played in a World Cup before and that experience will prove valuable. "I am also here to provide advice and keep a calm head under pressure. It's a nice responsibility."

Having been a member of the 2007 World Cup squad, Peterson had a good idea of how different a side South Africa are now. "We are excited as a squad and quite relaxed. We're prepared well, have given ourselves the best opportunity and have a quiet confidence. The guys know they can play under these conditions". It's a different speak altogether from the brash self-assurance South Africa have had in the past and judging by their new look and their new mindset, they may be ready for another surprise come April 2.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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Comments: 17 
Posted by Amol_Gh on (February 19, 2011, 6:37 GMT)

I hope that Peterson takes all this criticism positively.

Posted by kevin75 on (February 18, 2011, 5:55 GMT)

As DAryl Cullinan recently said on our domestic cricket show on tv - Robin Peterson is an average domestic player and with +/- 50 ODI's an even more average international player who should not bee in the WC squad. Plus the dude has been before and failed to deliver. I personally think SA needs to play Tahir as much as possible, a genuine classy leg spin bowler who has achieved a lot of success on a variety of surfaces around the world, granted not at International level. As for Johan Botha, why is there such hype about him? He started as a medium-pace bowler who couldn't make a domestic side, then tried his hand at spin, after a season or two into the national side then called for throwing, came back with less variety in his bowling for fear of being called again! Pathetic!

Posted by Dbag on (February 17, 2011, 14:40 GMT)

An average of 50.33 at less than a wicket a game (presuming he drags the team through a full ten of them) is indefensible.

Posted by missionbegins2011 on (February 17, 2011, 12:16 GMT)

SA has the second best spin attack in this WC, IND has the best one because their part timers as pretty good as well, SL only has quality in the name of murli, mendis was a threat when he was new but now batsmen are well versed with his style and his tricks dont work anymore

Posted by diri on (February 17, 2011, 11:37 GMT)

Can we find a new Klusner one day? Is it possible?? Klusner changed the ODI game forever and brought thousands of new fans to watch cricket....including me

Posted by Amol_Gh on (February 17, 2011, 9:33 GMT)

SA tried Kemp, Van der Wath, Philander and more others for a few days trying IN VAIN to find a replacement for the REAL THING: Klusener. They failed. So who is this...?

Posted by Amol_Gh on (February 17, 2011, 9:28 GMT)

There are Genuine All-Rounders (Klusener, Pollock, Kallis) who are experts at everything and find first priority in the selection of a team. And then there are Utility players who aren't experts at anything, but try to do a little bit of everything and are just selected to fill in the blanks in the selection of a team. Peterson belongs to the latter species.

Posted by Judas503 on (February 17, 2011, 8:59 GMT)

Robin Peterson has a very good domestic history. He does well very with both bat and ball. So, he is said to be a bowling allrounder. He couldn't live upto his potentials in the ODIs.

Posted by Vivek.Bhandari on (February 17, 2011, 7:05 GMT)

The most surprising decision related to Peterson was to let him open in the ODIs, but I hope he proves me wrong...:)

Posted by Amol_Gh on (February 17, 2011, 6:49 GMT)

Bring Klusener back. It's not late...even now.

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