JP Duminy has been the success story of the Proteas’ season.
Shaun Pollock may have hogged the headlines, but Duminy was the real star of South Africaâ€™s 5-0 one-day series drubbing of the West Indies.
Duminyâ€™s 79* in the first match in Centurion was the kind of innings youâ€™d expect from Jacques Kallis. He arrived at the crease with the Proteas in huge trouble at 4-2 and patiently dug his side out of a hole. He also had to worry about the threat of rain and constantly monitor the Duckworth-Lewis calculations in his pocket to make sure the Proteas were ahead of the game.
Fortunately, he decided to stop stressing about the weather and start concentrating on building partnerships. The result was a comfortable win for the Proteas, with the 23-year-old deservedly hitting the winning runs.
Coach Mickey Arthur afterwards praised Duminy for the way he controlled the innings and for showing calmness and maturity under pressure. When asked what heâ€™d done right, Duminy said heâ€™d simply focused on building an innings, like Kallis does so often, instead of trying to score too quickly.
To fully appreciate Duminyâ€™s recent success, you have to be aware of the difficult road heâ€™s travelled in international cricket. He made his one-day debut for the Proteas in a five-match series against Sri Lanka in 2004, having scored a pile of runs in domestic cricket. However, in unfamiliar conditions, the 20-year-old made 4, 22, 3, 0 and 0, while batting out of position at No 8, 8, 8, 6 and 7 respectively.
His confidence shattered, he waited two years for another opportunity, which came when South Africa rested several first-choice players against Zimbabwe at home. He averaged 115 in that series, thanks to two not outs, only to struggle against India in Ireland (51 runs in three matches at 17.00) and in an away series against Zimbabwe (33 runs in three matches at 16.50).
Duminy was selected to tour Pakistan at the beginning of this season, and although he didnâ€™t bat in the first ODI, he made 44 in the second and followed that with 46 in the first ODI against New Zealand at home. But another two failures against the Black Caps meant his place was anything but secure at the start of the West Indies series.
Then came the 79* that possibly changed the course of Duminyâ€™s career. He followed that with 148 runs in his next three innings and was named joint Man of the Series along with Pollock.
After his first five ODI appearances, Duminy averaged 5.80. His recent run of form has pushed that up to a respectable 33.47 after 25 matches, and it wouldnâ€™t be a surprise to see him edge past 40 over the next couple of years. All of which goes to show that putting faith in the abilities of a youngster and giving him every opportunity to succeed can pay off handsomely.
By Simon Borchardt