Lancashire and South Africa batsman, Alviro Petersen: “Wherever God guides, he provides”

Ollie Baines spoke with South African batsman, Alviro Petersen to find out what life is really like as a professional cricketer and how his Christian faith has helped his career.

Alviro, what are your earliest memories of playing cricket?

“My earliest memories of playing cricket are when I was eight-years-old and playing cricket in the streets with my friends. Obviously growing up in the neighbourhood there weren’t many facilities, so playing street cricket was the thing back then.”

Who would you say was your cricketing role model growing up?

“You know what, sadly there wasn’t. As I said, the community I grew up in was obviously riddled with drugs and awful things so there were never really any role models. We had no cable television to watch cricketing stars and that sort of thing so it was all about just enjoying the sport. Thankfully, I just found the love for it myself.”

Tell us how you came to know God for yourself?

“Well again, it was through the community. There was so many bad things happening in the area and that’s why I went on start my own foundation, but it was about looking for positive things to do. Growing up in that area, the positive thing to do was to play sport and go to church. Being involved with a church pulled me away from all the negativity like drugs and alcohol and I began in a relationship with God and that’s where it all started for me.”

What is the best thing about being a batsman in your eyes?

“The best thing about being a batsman is that we aren’t like bowlers and get it hard on our bodies! You can just bat or sit in the pavilion!

No, the best thing is scoring as many runs as possible and being down in the middle for as long as you can; that is the best thing about batting.”

Who would you say has been your best partner out in the middle and why?

“I think it depends on the situation as well. I’ve played in different games at test level or in one day internationals, I’ve been fortunate enough to play with some of the biggest legends that the game has to offer. There’s players like, Jacques Kallis in particular, Hashim Amla and AB Devilliers but I’ve scored lots of runs with most of these kind of partnerships.

I’ve also had some great partnerships with players at county level too, so it’s very difficult to just pick one. However, I would say that if I could give my top three partnerships, it would be: Jacques Kallis, who I’ve got a double-hundred with, Hashim Amla and then AB Devilliers who has always been a delight to play with as well.”

Talk us through the emotions of when you first got that call up to the South African squad? 

“Well, I tell you this. I talk a lot about my history and where I grew up because all my life I just wanted to play one game for my country, South Africa. I had that dream when I was eight-years-old and I my first game for South Africa was in 2006 when I got the call from the selectors and CEO of South African cricket when I was in a shopping centre. I was busy buying food and my phone rang, I took the call and I was told I had made the South African squad, it was one of the best moments in my career, so much so, that when I got home I think I forgot ten items from my shopping list! So I was overawed by the call-up and obviously I went on to achieve my childhood dream. I always say that wherever God guides, he provides, so I feel immensely blessed because that’s exactly what happened.”

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What would you say God has been teaching you through cricket?

“It would be to remain humble. Somewhere out there, there are people in need who don’t have what I have but we all have the same faith. That’s what life is about, having faith in our abilities and faith in our God. What life has taught me is to make sure that I’m humble and that I can see the world through other peoples eyes and have a sense of empathy. Life is not about people who look and act like me, it’s about all of us together and how we can assist one another as community. We must understand that it is by grace that we have this life and opportunities, and I want to help others in anyway I can.”

As someone who has been on the international scene and has played abroad, how difficult is it to get plugged into a church?

“It’s very difficult because playing international cricket you don’t really have off days. Most churches operate on a Sunday and most Sunday’s you probably play cricket because the game is promoted by commercial enterprises who want to fill stadiums over the weekends. So it is really difficult but you have to have an understanding of what you believe in and stand for. If you can’t get to a church, it’s important to do it yourself but it is hard especially in foreign countries, but it’s all about understanding who you are in God.”

Do you have a favourite Bible verse?

“Yes, I have quite a few but I suppose the two that have always stuck with me are, 1 Corinthians 30 and Psalm 23. Both of these really encourage me.”

Alviro, tell us more about your foundation and the motivation behind setting that up?

“Like I said, my childhood was a tough one. I grew up having a single mum, so up until I was seven-years-old I had no dad until she married, which was great because I had a family again. My mum always gave everything she had because we didn’t have much money at the time. I remember, I wanted some cricket pads and it took her three months to save enough money to buy them. Then in my teenage years, my mum was abused by my step dad which wasn’t great, so in 2013 I started up my own registered foundation. The foundation gives mainly kids, abused women and children an opportunity to talk about their issues.

It empowers them and gives them a chance to be heard and listened to. We’ve seen some magical things already in the first two or three years which is amazing. It’s a non-profit organisation, so I’ve pumped a lot of money into the foundation along with some sponsors, but it’s great to see the impact that it’s having on young people. Who knows what could happen in these groups? The next doctor to research the cure for cancer or the next president could emerge from this foundation! Who knows, it’s about giving them an opportunity.”

Scoring a debut test match century against India is a massive achievement, what was going through your head?

“Well, the night before I found out that I would be playing because of an injury to a team-mate. Like I said earlier, all I ever wanted to do was to play one match for South Africa and this was to be my test match debut. The night before I didn’t sleep. I remember we won the toss and batted first, I walked over the ropes and in that moment I achieved what I always wanted. I got my first run which quickly became a few runs which turned into ten runs. Then, I got to about seventy and I thought, “there’s only a few players in the world who have scored test hundreds and I could be one of them”, that’s when it dawned on me. When I got to ninety-nine, I remember hitting the ball to mid-wicket and I just ran; but in-between running those twenty-two yards, the three years previous of hard-work and dedication I had put in all came into that moment. I can’t really remember one to ninety-nine but three years work went into that hundredth run. It was just amazing feeling. Thankfully I went on to achieve more as my career progressed and I’m just humbled.”

You’re well travelled here in the UK when it comes to county cricket, how much have you enjoyed your time here?

“Cricket in the UK is very special. The fans understand what the game is about and every county is steeped in its own rich history so its special.

I love county cricket and if there’s any advice I could give to young players, it would be to play at county level because it’s the closest you will get to experience international cricket with the turn-around time and different conditions. It’s the perfect learning curve.”

Finally, favourite cricket ground to play in and why?

“I’ve had the privilege of playing in many fantastic grounds but the one that stands out for me will always be Newlands in Cape Town. It’s just a brilliant atmosphere especially at test match level. For me, it’s the best place to play in the world. I love playing there.”

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