Almost exactly seven months after a freak accident resulted in JP Duminy being sidelined through an Achilles injury, the batsman will make his return to international cricket in the ICC Champions Trophy.
He was named in the 15-man squad to tour to England in June and at the squad announcement, there was the usual talk about looking forward to the challenge ahead and getting back to playing, but there were also a lot of questions which weren’t asked; like whether he should have been allowed a free pass back into the squad after such a long layoff.
The lack of other concrete, all-round options perhaps justifies his return back into the side. He’s a handy hitter, but also offers a little bit extra with the ball and has often had that “golden arm” which can break partnerships or tidy up one end while the rest of the bowlers are toiling away. Duminy is an immensely talented player and he’s made his time away from the game count.
Despite not having played any competitive cricket, Duminy has made the most of his time on the sidelines and thanks to the medical staff at both his franchise and the Proteas, he has managed to stay in good shape through various exercises.
“I did a lot of rehab and strength work. In the last few weeks I did a lot of running, but before that I did a lot of boxing and swimming just to try and keep fit,” Duminy said.
He might be fit, but where his form is at is anybody’s guess. His record in England isn’t that great. Duminy’s played just 10 ODIs there, but has never scored more than 33 and during his last tour of the country, he only managed 65 runs in three innings and overall he averages 18.42 in England in the one-day format.
That doesn’t instil too much confidence and often when players return after a long layoff, they have trouble adjusting back into the team set up, but Duminy’s spent the last few weeks working with coach Gary Kirsten to just be reminded of where he belongs in the side and what his role will be in the upcoming tournament.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think about coming back. I’ve been working with Gary over the last few weeks so that I can understand my role and how I will slot back into the side,” the batsman added.
The psychological strain of being away from the game can often be as strenuous as recovering from injury. Frustration can fester and players can lose sight of the task at hand, especially when there is a barrage of cricket on TV. Duminy coped by avoiding watching cricket as much as he could and while he tuned into the series against New Zealand and Pakistan here and there, he mostly busied himself with other obligations.
“I didn’t watch too much cricket while I was off, which was the best thing I could’ve done. I didn’t really get that itchy feeling of wanting to play. I watched a bit to keep tabs on the guys.”
He also spent some time with the team whenever they were in Cape Town. Duminy says that being in the changing room and still in the team environment helped him immensely as he felt he did still have a role to play in the side and was always reminded that he is still part of the team and will be a part of it once he manages to get back from that freak injury.
Now he is back and he’s bullish. The pressure is on South Africa to perform in the Champions Trophy. They won the first edition of the tournament, but have since then never made it further than the semi-finals in the and in the last edition, they failed to reach the group stages. While there’s been a lot less so-called “choking” for the Proteas in the tournament, they’ve just never been able to get over the line, despite having a solid arsenal of players in their midst.
They have a real chance to rewrite history this time around, especially with Kirsten at the helm, and Duminy believes the team has got what it takes to go all the way.
“I’m hell of a confident. We’ve got a good bunch of guys, experience and youth. I think we can go all the way, but it’s just about us believing in ourselves,” he said. DM
Photo: South Africa’s JP Duminy hits a shot during their Twenty20 World Cup Super 8 cricket match against India in Colombo October 2, 2012. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte
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