Cape Town – His pure talent and occasional
match-winning abilities hardly in doubt, JP Duminy should be at the very peak
of his international career at age 31.
Instead he is flirting increasingly dangerously
with the axe in both the Test and one-day international landscapes.
Only in the Twenty20 arena does his place
look secure at present, and that is a source of some relief – to him and
Proteas supporters -- given the looming ICC World T20 competition in India and
the bilateral home mini-series against England and Australia immediately before
In that shortest format of them all, he
boasts respective unbeaten knocks of 68 (Dharamsala) and 30 (Cuttack) in South
Africa’s last two T20 internationals, as they beat India both times on their
own intimidating turf.
His bowling has been acceptably economical
for the country at that level too, although in the last 15 matches that the
Proteas have played, he has only completed maximum four-over spells twice –
just another sign that his secondary trade, in particular, seems to be going
disturbingly backwards and that confidence in it from captains and coaches has
This is not how it was meant to be, given
the hope when the colossal Jacques Kallis finally strode off into the sunset
from all three codes – a process completed by mid-2014 -- that Duminy would be
at least a partial solution as an all-rounder helping to restore vital balance
to the side.
Not only is the all-rounder side of the
bargain diminishing at a rate of knots (at least outside of the T20 landscape)
for Duminy, but his batting is floundering as well.
Added to his known problems against the
wiliest off-spin and occasionally also high-quality short-pitched pace bowling
– though who is ever truly at ease there? – Duminy has developed a worrying
penchant for losing his wicket “softly”.
It happened again in the defeat to England
in the first ODI at Bloemfontein on Wednesday, where he completely misread a
slower, gripping delivery from gangly left-arm seamer Reece Topley and spooned
up an easy caught-and-bowled for 13 after working the ball about with some
promise ahead of the mishap.
The dismissal rounded off a forgettable 147th
ODI appearance for Duminy, who trudged back knowing also that his bowling had
earlier taken damaging tap – 48 runs from five overs as his “shared” allocation
with Farhaan Behardien again failed to cut the mustard.
That said, the pair were always going to be
vulnerable to savage assault after the ill-disciplined mass failings of the
Proteas’ supposed main strike bowlers at Mangaung Oval.
Unfortunately for Duminy, though, things
appear to be inexplicably unravelling in most facets of the game for him and he
cuts a rather sad, disillusioned figure these days. Or put it this way: that
infectious grin when things are going his way has seen little service.
His ODI batting has lacked real assertiveness
for the past year, whilst his off-breaks, which increasingly feature variations
in his action that only seem to muddy the waters, have surrendered both their
scalp-taking potential and ability to choke the flow of runs.
Over the course of his last 40 overs in
seven ODIs, beginning with the winter trip to Bangladesh last year, Duminy has
managed a mere two wickets at a cost of 261 runs.
Perhaps influenced by this statistical struggle
in the shorter brand, Duminy’s Test leaders over a similar period – Hashim Amla
and then more recently AB de Villiers – have marginalised his bowling in a
He bowled a miserly six overs at Centurion
and one at Kingsmead during the recent four-Test series against England, and a
particularly lean – considering the dry, crumbling tracks – nine across three
Tests in India a little earlier.
Perhaps the charismatic but astute
commentator David “Bumble” Lloyd was correct recently when he suggested Duminy
was a bowler with the cricketing equivalent of golf’s dreaded yips.
Might a return to a greater degree of
simplicity and basic principles aid his resurrection? He has just looked a
touch too desperate in his quest to be innovative as a spinner of late.
Relief hasn’t come for the often
easy-on-the-eye left-hander at the Test crease, either: his last 10 innings
there feature 143 runs at an average of just below 16.
The busy T20 phase of the season cannot
come quickly enough for Duminy ... it just seems his most secure sanctuary right
But some restoration of spirits in the
remaining 50-overs fare ahead of it would help.
He is under pressure to buck up with both
bat and ball – an expected slower and possibly turning surface may help his
latter chore -- in the second ODI in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing