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Fri Oct 24 12:18:43 SAST 2014

Proteas will need a real spinner to stay on top

Firdose Moonda | 13 February, 2013 01:09
Firdose Moonda
Image by: The Times

The most significant change Robin Peterson made when he went from perennial drinks boy to permanent fixture across all formats of the national team was being more comfortable in his own skin. One aspect of that honesty involved understanding how to operate within his limitations, another was acknowledging his role in the side.

Peterson has since concluded that he is "surplus to requirements" in the Test team. The form of the pacemen means Peterson spends more time trampling grass than he does turning his arm over. Although he is used to being a supporting actor, it can be frustrating.

Not just for him. Peterson's thanks-for-coming appearances (added to by his negligible contributions with the bat) are an indicator that the four quicks have established unmatched dominance. It also suggests that they take their spinner out of the game. That strategy has worked in the seamer-friendly conditions of home, England and Australia, but it will not always be the answer.

In the sub-continent, South Africa will need tweakers who can make timely breakthroughs and hold up an end. They will need their spinners to operate alongside the fast bowlers, not in their shadows. Luckily, they have got time to find that person.

Although South Africa tour the United Arab Emirates in October, they will not play Tests in Sri Lanka or India until 2015. Those two years should be used to find an effective spinner, especially since there are none on the horizon at the moment.

Imran Tahir is still the leading wicket-taker in the first-class competition as he continues to push for a recall. He will be 35 when South Africa tour India and, although he may still be playing, he will be in his twilight years. So will Peterson.

The next candidate as far as statistics go is Warriors offspinner Simon Harmer, while the Lions have Aaron Phangiso, Eddie Leie and Dale Deeb in their ranks and the Titans have the exciting legspinner Shaun von Berg. All of these bowlers need to be nurtured carefully, something that Cricket SA's high-performance programme should take care of.

Training camps in the sub-continent have been mooted as an idea, and one was held last August. A few more will not do any harm; neither will a specialist spinning mentor. But the suits at Cricket SA are likely to neglect that because they seem oblivious in matters of running the game.

Newly elected president Chris Nenzani instructed the media to keep their first press conference with him short because he and the rest of the board had been in the AGM meeting-room all morning and "want to go home".

That may have been acceptable if it was not in the middle of a Test match, with the South African attack tearing through Pakistan.

Perhaps Nenzani and his merry men are not all that interested in the on-field activities, which can only be a worrying sign for the future. Given that they will busy themselves with expansion over the next 18 months, we can safely say Peterson will not be the only spare part around.

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