Alviro Petersen: South Africa puts a huge emphasis on playing Test cricket

Alviro Petersen retired from international cricket following South Africa’s Test series against West Indies in January 2015 and took up a Kolpak deal in English county cricket with Lancashire. In an international career which lasted almost nine years, Petersen played 36 Tests, and scored 2093 runs at 34.88 with five hundreds, including one on debut against India in Kolkata.

In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, 34-four year old Petersen spoke about his decision to retire from international cricket, his debut against India, South Africa’s ability to produce world class cricketers, his experience of playing alongside Dale Steyn and AB de Villiers and what he wishes to accomplish during his stint with Lancashire.

Excerpts from an interview:
PakPassion.net (PP): Some would say 34 is too young to retire from international cricket?
Alviro Petersen (AP): It’s never too young; 34 is a good age and the right time.

PP: Was it a tough decision to give up playing for South Africa?
AP: When you’ve played international cricket and you are part of a special team then it isn’t easy to give up. But, like I said, I think it was the right time and I’m pretty much happy with my decision. Yes, it was a difficult decision and, yes, I was thinking about it a couple of months before I made the announcement. But I am comfortable with my decision and I think it was the right one.

PP: Looking back at your international career, any special moments and some not-so-special moments?
AP: Like any other sport or career, there always lots of highs and lows. There were more highs than lows, especially from a team point of view. Especially rising to No 1 in the world, we beat England in England and beat Australia in Australia and we were pretty much dominant in that period I played for South Africa. There are lots of fond memories and many good things from a team perspective and what we achieved as a unit and those will always remain with me. The low moments are probably where we lost series, most notably when Australia came to South Africa not so long ago and beat us. But then we bounced back and showed once again that South Africa is a fantastic team in all conditions. We won in the sub-continent and all over the world, so definitely more highs than lows.

PP: A hundred on your Test debut at Eden Gardens in Kolkata must have been special?
AP: It was a great achievement to get a hundred and to achieve it on debut was very special. As an international player you want to get that first hundred and settle the nerves and to get it on my first day of Test cricket was pretty special. Looking back at that innings, it was a significant day in my Test career and something I am very proud of.

PP: Why do you think South Africa fall flat in ICC limited-overs tournaments?
AP: I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. When you have a history of losing big games then sometimes, it carries over and over and there is also all the pressure that comes with such situations. I think it will need for one South African team to go to a World Cup and reach a final and win it and face their fears. It just keeps adding up and we keep losing in big tournaments. It’s a case of facing those demons when the occasion arrives and that’s the only time you can overcome it. From a South African point of view, it’s down to the next squad which plays in an ICC tournament to try and overturn that as history is against them. The talent is there and in big moments in Test cricket, nine times out of 10 South Africa would win, but if you put South Africa in the same situation in a limited-overs match then nine times out of 10 they will lose.

PP: Do you think the term chokers for the South African limited-overs team is harsh?
AP: The media will always be harsh! For me to say whether it’s right or wrong is premature, and not my place to say it. But I think when looking back, when it comes to big moments in ICC tournaments they haven’t quite put it together yet. I’m sure it’s disappointing from the South African point of view. The media can call it what they want, but it remains that South Africa has not won a major limited-overs tournament and that is something they will want to rectify. South Africa has the skills and the players and the determination, but it’s all about facing those demons and realising that this is the moment we can overturn it and it’s about ensuring that the next generation of players come through and do it for the past players who couldn’t do it.

PP: How is it that South Africa’s cricket infrastructure continues to produce world-class cricketers?
AP: I think it’s to do with the fact that South Africa puts a huge emphasis on playing Test cricket and that’s why it has been No 1 in the Test rankings for a long time and will remain there. Also it’s to do with there being less teams in South Africa where the competition for places is intense and the guys want to play at the top and in a country of 60 million people you have to be good to play for one of the six teams. There is no place to hide in South African cricket. To play there you have to be top of the crop. At the same time the structure is right and the competition is right and there is enough time for players to rest in between matches. In the English First-Class season you play 16 matches, but in South Africa you play just 10 games.

PP: What are your thoughts on the quota system which has been the cause of some controversy and do you think it is detrimental to South African cricket as some have suggested?
AP: I fundamentally disagree that it has been detrimental. I was classed as a quota player and I have close to 13,000 First-Class runs. Ashwell Prince was the same, he has over 17,000 First-Class runs. I think it’s an unfair assessment from the media point of view who are trying to push their own agendas. South Africa has shown that it is the best team in the world and that’s with the so-called quota players. Hashim Amla is supposed to be a quota player; he’s the best player in the world. JP Duminy is supposed to be quota player, he’s a fantastic player. Vernon Philander is supposed to be another quota player; he’s probably the best highly-skilled bowler in the world. I could mention many more like Imran Tahir. People always try to find an angle to advance their own agenda and it’s sad because this has been mentioned in the past also and has nothing to do with it. I believe players are there on merit and let’s compare them to other countries and you will soon find that the players in South Africa are better.

PP: What was it like sharing a dressing room with two of the modern day greats, AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn?
AP: I was lucky enough that when Dale Steyn was a young and raw fast bowler I captained him when he came to Northerns. I was lucky enough to have shared a house with AB for a couple of years when we played for the same franchise. So there was already a bond and all the players in South Africa have over the years spent a lot of time together at the academy and that helps a lot. The guys know each other and stick together. There is no back-stabbing and even though the media try to infiltrate the team, there is no way through. If any international team needs to look at how to operate then the South African example would be right up there.

PP: One way to describe Imran Tahir would be, he is Pakistan’s loss and South Africa’s gain? 
AP: Imran didn’t just find love in a woman; he found love in South African cricket. Whenever he kisses the badge, which he does very often, that shows what it means to him. I’ve had the privilege of playing with him at franchise level and I’ve been close to the guy and I know what he is about. He’s a wonderful man and like the other South African cricketers, they are great men before they are great cricketers.

PP: What are your aims at Lancashire this season?
AP: The first thing is to contribute in the development of the young players and to obviously try and score a lot of runs. From a team point of view we need to try and get back into Division One of the County Championship. Lancashire is a great County side with a lot of supporters and a rich history. I think it’s a team that belongs in Division One, but I know it will be hard work. I want to be instrumental in helping the team to get promotion back into Division One.

 

(Saj Sadiq is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net, from where the above article has been reproduced. He can be followed on Twitter at @Saj_PakPassion. The above article first appeared in  PakPassion)

 

More from this author

All eyes on Mohammad Amir

Phil DeFreitas: Over-coaching can damage fast bowlers

Dav Whatmore: Zimbabwe’s tour of Pakistan will be viewed with great interest all over the world