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JP Duminy: A shot in the arm for South Africa

JP Duminy has been South Africa's star performer in past couple of months © AFP
JP Duminy has been South Africa’s star performer in past couple of months © AFP

Persistence is finally paiying off for South Africa all-rounder. JP Duminy, who is finally showing the credentials and mental strength needed for a world-class batsman. R Vishal describes the 30 year-old’s  journey.

Early hype surrounding a player can either produce legends or have lesser men crumble by the sheer weight of expectations that a player has to live up to. JP Duminy’s career has followed the latter pattern. The crisp cover drive, square cut and an ability to seamlessly switch gears caught everyone’s notice when the southpaw helped South Africa chase down a  mammoth score of 414 at Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA) ground in Australia. He followed it up with a magnificent 166 at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) too, but has never really ignited the spark that was on display in those initial days.

In the sweltering heat of Galle coupled with Rangana Herath’s immaculate record at the ground, Duminy had quite a task ahead of him. He came in at No 8 and his team was on the verge of throwing away all the hard work they had built in the first two sessions of Day One. If former South African players, who had toured Sri Lanka in the past had seen how Duminy went about piling the runs, their team’s records in these parts would have made better reading.

Despite being a natural attacker of the ball, he was patient and took minimal risks. After negating the threat of Herath, he was his natural self — sweeping  confidently and using his feet to punish the occasional bad delivery. Despite batting with tail-enders for a better part of his stay at the crease, he rotated the strike. The busy nature of his game wasn’t compromised one bit. He then, raced to his hundred with a flurry of boundaries.

His bowling was largely viewed as a part-time option. With South Africa continuing their search for a match-winning spinner, Duminy is one of the first names to spring up to add variety in their bowing ranks. He bowled long spells against Australia at home earlier and got breakthroughs too. After his heroics with the bat, he yet again got a crucial breakthrough by enticing the well set Upul Tharanga and had him stumped.

With the team having a plethora of match-winners in their ranks, Duminy virtually became invisible in the lower middle order. 2014 has witnessed a second coming of sorts for the Cape Town-born cricketer. With colossal figures like Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis bidding adieu, Duminy is one of the experienced campaigners around. He can no longer be a guaranteed starter either with the ever rising stars; Quinton de Kock and Ryan McLaren breathing down his neck. There is also the highly rated Stiaan van Zyl, who is a part of the current squad.

Having already produced a match-winning hundred at Port Elizabeth against Australia, Duminy, after a long wait is delivering what was expected from him close to a decade ago.

(R Vishal is a journalist and an alumni of the Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)

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