Cricket World Cup history: Peter Kirsten, the 'magnificent afterthought' of the South African team
How much international cricket lost while South Africa were in exile became apparent by watching Peter Kirsten’s performances in the 1992 World Cup. He was nearly 37 then, but he batted as if in his prime and was a model of consistency.
He was simply thrilled to be at the international stage: “I am just so happy to be here. Everything else is a bonus.” Kirsten played a huge part in South Africa’s maiden campaign in the World Cup wherein they reached the semi-final, and may have made the final as well with better luck.
But Kirsten was not even in the original squad of 20. There was an outcry, and he was included in the World Cup team only after some big scores in the Currie Cup and domestic One-day competitions. He was dubbed an ‘afterthought’.
Batting in the key No. 3 slot, Kirsten made a fine World Cup debut with his unbeaten 49 as South Africa jolted hosts Australia. He featured in an unbroken 97-run stand with skipper Kepler Wessels as they brought up a nine-wicket victory over the holders.
It was a commendable initiation in the premier event for a man who had spent long years excelling at the first-class level.
New Zealand, though, were a tough proposition in this tournament, but Kirsten played a fighting innings in adverse circumstances. He hit 90 off 129 balls with 10 fours as his team struggled to 190 for seven in their 50 overs. His fourth-wicket partnership with wicketkeeper Dave Richardson was worth 79 runs.
Kirsten top-scored again with 47 off 81 balls with 5 fours and a six as Sri Lanka pulled off a nail-biting win. His second-wicket stand of 87 with Wessels was in vain as South Africa were unable to put up a formidable total.
But they quickly corrected the anomaly when they took on the West Indies. Kirsten scored 56 off 91 balls and put his side back on track again.
He missed the encounter with Pakistan, but continued his fine form as he carved out an unbeaten 62 from 103 deliveries off the Zimbabweans. His second-wicket partnership with Wessels yielded 112 runs.
Earlier he did a star-turn with the ball as well, taking three for 31, bagging the man-of-the-match award. Kirsten was initially supposed to be rested for this match; after his brilliant display he came to be known as ‘the magnificent afterthought’.
Kirsten’s two failures came against England, first in the league match and then in the semi-final. On both occasions he scored 11.
In between was a rain-hit match against India, who scored 180 for six in their 30 overs. The in-form Kirsten was sent in to open with Andrew Hudson. They put on 128 to set up a six-wicket win.
Kirsten scored a superb 84 off 86 balls with 7 boundaries to secure another man-of-the-match prize.
Kirsten was undoubtedly the star in South Africa’s splendid return to the international game. His scores of 49 not out, 90, 47, 56, 62 not out, 11, 84 and 11 are testimony to the fact that even in the evening of his career he could compete on even terms with the best in the game.
Such consistency is rare in one-day cricket. That he could achieve it in his first season at the top level reinforced his class and his desire to prove himself at least once before he bowed out. It also left the aficionados wondering what might have been.
Peter Kirstan’s World Cup batting and fielding record:
Matches 8, Highest Score 90, Runs 410, Average 68.33, Strike-rate 66.55, Fifties 4, Catches 2
Also see – India vs England head to head stats