Former Proteas spinner Robin Peterson recollects being deployed as an opening bowler in 2011, his long-standing relationship with teammate Imran Tahir and more, writes JONHENRY WILSON.
The 2011 edition was hosted in the India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, where conditions proved typically subcontinental – and saw South Africa play three specialist spinners.
‘I didn’t get to play much in the 2003 and 2007 World Cups. In 2011, however, I really enjoyed it, because we started to take spin bowling more seriously. We had three specialist spinners in the squad, and I played a lot of the matches. So, of the three World Cups I played in, 2011 was a standout for me,’ Peterson told SA Cricket magazine.
‘In the first World Cup, in 2003, I was pretty young. I had had a good domestic season, so I was earmarked for the future and they decided to take me to the World Cup. In 2007, I think our eyes opened up to the fact that we needed to be more diverse in our approach to ODI cricket, which is probably why we adopted more spin bowling – regardless of whether or not we were playing on the subcontinent.
‘The selectors and coaching staff probably saw we were lagging behind the rest of the world, so spin bowling came into play more. I think that events that year saw a vast mental shift in South African cricket. In terms of role definition, Graeme Smith used me a lot in the power plays – and opening the bowling on some occasions.
‘It was a strategy we tried to adopt on the subcontinent. In the middle period, in the middle overs, the hope was that Johan Botha would keep things tight and maybe pick up the odd wicket. I was used to strike in the first 15 overs, with Imran Tahir ready to strike in the middle.’
Tahir and Peterson were not always on the same side.
‘Imran and I had gone a long way back, when he played for Pakistan U19 and I played for South Africa U19. The county circuit also saw us cross paths, and our partnership with the ball and friendship grew from strength to strength.’
South Africa finished at the top of Group B despite defeat to England. Peterson removed openers Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss, and middle-order kingpin Ian Bell in quick succession, but half-centurions Jonathan Trott and Ravi Bopara led England’s recovery with the bat – and seamer Stuart Broad capped victory with the ball.
Less than three weeks later, the Proteas were quarter-final losers to New Zealand, as Peterson’s early dismissal of the dangerous Brendon McCullum went in vain.
‘When I was opening the bowling, a job normally done by seamers, the challenge was a big one. We felt that maybe opening with a spinner against England, with Pietersen opening the batting, was the way to go. He was a bit vulnerable to left-arm spin, and it worked out for us. Against New Zealand, we felt that McCullum wasn’t as good against left-arm spin than he was against seamers,’ added Peterson.
‘I managed to get both Pietersen and McCullum out, so the choice to have me open the bowling in those matches worked well. It worked out to perfection, actually.’
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