Another mediocre summer should see Alviro Petersen making way for Quinton de Kock at the top of the order.
Petersen remains a mystery. I remember watching him score 182 against England at Headingley in 2012. That innings proved that he had the technique and the temperament to be a fine Test batsman. It was at that moment where I was convinced that Petersen was the right man for that opening position. I felt he would go on to score plenty of runs for his country.
Unfortunately, Petersen has failed to kick on since that innings. He last scored a century on 2 January 2013, and has averaged just 28.18 over the past two years.
It’s not good enough, and I would go as far to say that the coming series against the West Indies is a defining one in the context of his Test career.
Graeme Smith, who retired last season, has left a big hole at the top of the order. Dean Elgar has come in and done a job, but as a combination, I don’t think that Elgar and Petersen are anything special.
I’m not sure why Petersen has struggled. He worked well in tandem with Smith, but is evidently not as good when asked to play the role of the senior partner. While he’s got a few starts in recent seasons, he has rarely gone on to contribute a score of significance.
The pressure is on Petersen to produce the goods this summer. What will help his cause is the quality of the West Indies’ attack, or lack thereof.
The West Indies selectors have left out off-spinner Sunil Narine, who may have lent some variety and bite on the bowling front. What’s left is not particularly intimidating. One would expect the South African batsmen, and especially the openers, to cash in
I doubt that the South African selectors will experiment too much over the course of the three-Test series. That said, they can’t persist with Petersen indefinitely. Another couple of failures and they must look at developing an alternative in what is a crucial position.
I’m happy for Quinton de Kock to settle in the middle order at this point. However, I’ve always believed that De Kock should eventually move up the order. And so, if Petersen continues to struggle, then it may be worth pushing De Kock to open the batting.
De Kock may need to tighten up his technique, but he certainly has what it takes to be a success in that position. We’ve already seen how effective he’s been in the ODI format. I believe that can be transferred to the five-day game. The Aussies have already done this with David Warner. De Kock is in the same class in terms of skill and attitude, and could be just as effective for the Proteas at the top of the order.
If Petersen doesn’t come right this summer, then the Proteas selectors must act. It may be a bold decision to promote De Kock, but it is one that should pay off in the long term.