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Petersen relaxed ahead of likely Test debut

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Ahead of a likely Test debut, Keegan Petersen is relaxed and feels as though he’s got nothing to lose as he steps into a struggling batting line-up.

The tour to the West Indies opens a long-awaited window of opportunity for Keegan Petersen. Picture: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePix.

JOHANNESBURG – For someone stepping into a batting line-up that has drastically under-performed recently, Keegan Petersen’s relaxed tone ahead of a likely Test debut is understandable. What’s he got to lose?

The 27 year-old is new Test captain Dean Elgar’s choice to fill the position left vacant by Faf du Plessis’ retirement from the ‘red ball’ format.

South Africa’s batting, even with Du Plessis present, has been very poor in the last two years, so Petersen, the usual nerves that flutter upon making an international debut notwithstanding, really has everything to gain in the Caribbean. No one does nor should expect him to be the elixir for all of the Proteas’ batting ailments.

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“I’d like to think I’ve built up a reputation for myself over the past couple of years in domestic cricket,’ Petersen said ahead of the Proteas’ departure on Monday.

“It’s been a long journey,” said Petersen. “I’ve been a part of the first class system for almost 10 years. To get a go in this (Proteas) side, means a lot, because I know where I’ve come from. It would be that way for anyone … this is what we work for, dream of as kids and it is why we play cricket.”

Petersen made his first class debut for Boland in 2012, and his journey in domestic cricket has taken him to Durban via Bloemfontein. Possessed of a strong technique, the right handed batsmen is an elegant player through the off-side and in the last few seasons domestically has been one of the steadiest contributors with the bat for Knights and more recently Dolphins.

“I’ve learned a lot since being at the Dolphins. It has expanded my game, playing in Durban in testing conditions and has made me a better cricketer.”

Indeed Kingsmead is now home to the most spin-friendly track in the country, something the Dolphins used to their advantage to make it to two finals last summer – losing the T20 Challenge to the Lions, but thumping the Titans in the Four-Day competition.Given that the surface in St Lucia is expected to be low and slow, Petersen already feels like he is at an advantage ahead of his likely Test debut.

Speaking at the weekend, Elgar, said he saw Petersen as the most capable candidate to take Du Plessis’s spot. “He’s been waiting quite some time, so if he gets selected, it’s a massive opportunity for him. There’s a lot of room for him to try and make an impact in our batting line-up,” Elgar explained.

Petersen’s combined average in the franchise first class competition in the last four seasons is a very healthy 48.54, and he’s made six centuries over that stretch.

“I know that I will have big boots to fill,” he remarked. “When the dream becomes a reality it kind of gives the system a bit of a shock, it’s like ‘you’re finally here and now what are you going to do about it?’ You don’t know where it is going to go, but I’m extremely excited to represent the country and play with a good bunch of blokes.”

The Proteas will spend a few days in quarantine in their hotel in St. Lucia but hope that by the weekend they can begin training for the first of two Tests against the West Indies which will both be played at the Daren Sammy Cricket Stadium.

“I’m extremely excited. We’re going to the Caribbean, it’s a holiday destination for most people, we’re going there to work, but I’m really extremely excited about what is to come in the next couple of weeks and hopefully the success we can achieve,” Petersen added.

The first Test starts on June 10.

@shockerhess