Antoinette Muller

JP Duminy, the comeback kid

2013-10-16 15:13
Sport24 columnist Antoinette Muller (File)
It’s just day three of South Africa’s Test against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, but the visitors find themselves in the peculiar situation of having surrendered their lead. It’s only the fourth time that has happened in 15 Tests. The last time it happened was, incidentally, against Pakistan in Cape Town earlier this year. South Africa went on to win that Test.

They also fell behind against Australia last year, but managed to salvage a draw. The last time they lost a Test after falling behind was in December 2011, against Sri Lanka. That was also the last time South Africa lost a Test. A comeback is needed if they hope to keep their unbeaten run in check.

One man who knows about comebacks, in more ways than one, is JP Duminy. In his second ever Test, Duminy combined with Dale Steyn for a match-saving and ultimately match-winning partnership of 180. Whenever somebody makes a debut like that, expectations are immediately set. That knock was  almost five years ago and for Duminy, the hardest part about having such a stellar debut series, was to understand himself that there will be tough times.

“That was a long time ago. I've kind of put it behind me, but when it happened the expectation, especially from myself was really high. I didn't expect to do that well and I raised the bar for myself and that's where I got it a little bit wrong,” Duminy told Sport24.

“I had to learn that you will go through ups and downs throughout your career and I will still go through those in years to come. It's all about finding the balance and not getting too down when things don't go well and not getting over excited when things go well. You have to put in the hard work no matter what happens,” he added.

Overall, things have gone pretty well for the diminutive batsman, though. Aside from a barren spell between December 2009 to February 2010, Duminy has played a solid role in the Test set up. Things took a bit of a grim turn last year when he snapped is Achilles during a warm down exercise in Australia, an injury which would rule him out of action for six months, but he marked his return with an unbeaten 150 against the Netherlands. Despite a dry run in the Champions Trophy, where he scored just 43 runs in four games, he whacked 97 in an ODI against Sri Lanka returned to Test cricket with 57 in South Africa’s first innings. 

The man himself was slightly surprised by the way he returned, but hopes that the form he finds himself in can continue.

“It was a bit of a surprise. It was the perfect way to make a comeback, so hopefully I can continue my good form,” he said.

Part of that form is doing an extra bit of bowling. He got the breakthrough wicket for South Africa on day two at Abu Dhabi, but the 29-year old doesn’t want to think of himself as an all-rounder just yet.

“That title all-rounder is only going to put added pressure on me. I want to do well with the bat and if I can do well with the ball, great. I'm putting in the effort behind the scenes so I can perform with the ball, if the conditions suit me,” Duminy said.

With the wicket in Abu Dhabi expected to turn even more as the match goes on, Duminy’s golden arm might very well become a handy asset in the final innings. For now, though, South Africa are focusing on another great comeback.

The No 1-ranked Test side in the world is unbeaten away from home since 2006 and although they have put on solid performances since toppling England from their throne in 2012, holding on to the ranking isn’t something which occupies their minds too often.

“It's an added perk to having played good cricket for having played good cricket over the last 18 months. It'll be nice to retain it, but that's not our number one focus. We want to win this series, because it's hard work in these conditions,” said Duminy.

Antoinette Muller is a freelance writer who writes mainly about soccer and cricket for The Daily Maverick or anybody else who will have her...

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