Keegan Petersen became the 112th player to represent the Proteas in Tests following readmission. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix.
Keegan Petersen became the 112th player to represent the Proteas in Tests following readmission. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix.

’Daddy, let’s just go to the nets ...’ Emotional day for the Petersens as Keegan makes Proteas debut

By Stuart Hess Time of article published Jun 10, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG - Dirk Petersen and his family arranged to gather around the TV set on Thursday, and watch his son Keegan fulfill a lifelong dream.

“It was very, very emotional,” the elder Petersen said. “All day, I’ve just wanted to cry.”

Keegan became the 112th player to represent the Proteas in Tests following readmission when the first Test between South Africa and the West Indies got under way at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground in St Lucia.

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The Windies won the toss and elected to bat.

Petersen senior, a teacher at New Orleans Senior Secondary in Paarl, admitted that concentrating on work on Thursday proved difficult. “There were times I was writing on the board and I could feel the tears coming, but I didn’t want the kids to see …”

He may have held back the tears while at work, but there was no chance of that self-control remaining once his son took to the field.

“I was talking to Keegan’s wife, Kailynne, this morning, and all she said was; ‘ja, daar gat trane wees neh.’ (there will be tears), and she’s right. This is very emotional for all of us. We are a very close-knit family.”

ALSO READ: What has Keegan Petersen got to lose ahead of likely Test debut

Even the country’s problems with electricity aren’t going to be an obstacle. “I don’t care, if we go off at six o’ clock, we’ll go and find somewhere to watch.”

Petersen senior’s cricket career, saw him share the field as part of the Western Province B team in the late 1980s and early 90s with the likes of Shukri Conrad (the current SA under-19 coach) and he also played for Paarl Cricket Club, sharing the dressing room there with Adrian Kuiper and Marais Erasmus, currently one of the game’s top umpires.

Petersen was also a very good rugby player, who was an elusive runner with an eye for a gap from the fullback position. He toured Italy with the South African Tertiary Institutions Sports Union (SATISU), which was captained by former Western Province and Springbok loose forward Andrew Aitken.

“I never wanted to go to trials with Keegan, because I didn’t want other people whispering about me being his father.”

“Keegan never played in the A team, from his under-11 days, it was only when he made the under-19 that he was in an A side.”

ALSO READ: ’Ideal candidate’ Keegan Petersen set for Proteas Test debut in the Caribbean

One abiding memory for Dirk is the day Keegan, then 19, made his senior professional debut for Boland in a provincial one-day match at Boland Park.

“All of us went together, him with this big (cricket) bag, from New Orleans (a suburb in Paarl) near Dal Josafat stadium to Boland Park. It was a Sunday, I’ll never forget,” said Dirk Petersen.

His son made 44 that Sunday, and his professional journey would extend well beyond the picturesque and close-knit community in Paarl.

“It was all about (the lack of) game time at the Cobras. So he wanted to leave, and he played for the Knights (in Bloemfontein). Then the Dolphins came with an offer, which he took.”

“He worked very hard, with every disappointment he had as a boy, he’d just come to me and go ‘daddy let’s go to the nets.’”

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Keegan Petersen got his first call-up to the national side in 2019/20 for the Test series against England. It was justified recognition for one of the most consistent batsmen in the country.

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.

He’s been in the Proteas squad since, but other than a couple of stints in the field, he hadn't officially started a match, something that was testing his patience, his father admits.

“We knew the chance would come, we were not in a hurry, we told him to be patient. I told him, ‘your time will come boeta.’”

Before leaving for the Caribbean, Keegan, admitted to nerves, knowing that he was the front-runner to fill the spot left by Faf du Plessis’s retirement from the Test format.

“I’ve been nervous for a while now and it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. I know I will have big boots to fill.”

That nervous excitement was shared by his parents at their home on Thursday. “It is very emotional. He’s come such a long way, this a very big day for all of us,” said Dirk Petersen.


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