One stat that goes around a lot among South African cricket fans is JP Duminy's infamous ODI record - four hundreds after 184 matches. That the four tons have come against Zimbabwe (three) and Netherlands (one) further dent Duminy's stature as an ODI player.
For somebody considered a senior member of the Proteas setup, Duminy has rather mediocre returns in Tests and ODIs, but courtesy his all-round skills and experience, finds himself in the playing XI more often than not, particularly post Jacques Kallis's retirement when the Proteas grappled to find the right all-rounders.
It wasn't until last year that the selectors let go of the Duminy experiment in Tests, his most impressive ton coming against Australia in his debut series in 2008. The off-spinning all-rounder, despite making Ian Chappell go gaga in just his second Test, couldn't quite convert his talent into runs.
"Ricky Ponting has long been considered the master of the willow-wielders. Judging by the cool approach and precise shot-making of JP Duminy, he's the young batsman most likely to usurp Ponting's title," Chappell had written for ESPNCricinfo in 2009, a year after the South African's debut series.
The same article, however, goes on to mention that Duminy does have a flaw against short-pitched bowling but that it isn't something a young Duminy couldn't "eradicate". Almost a decade hence, we can safely say that he hasn't "eradicated" that or most other flaws in his game including a profound weakness against off-spin.
That Duminy had a long career in Tests and even ODIs can be put down to South Africa's shortage of options, Duminy's own breathtaking talent and promise and indeed a bit on their vehement transformation guidelines. His selection in Tests and ODIs have been marred by controversy and the author himself has time and again questioned his continued selection despite his average numbers and glaring flaws, and promising talent available in domestic cricket.
However, while we call a spade a spade, it is also essential that we do not turn a blind eye towards his better qualities. Despite all his flaws in Tests and ODIs, Duminy the T20I cricketer is a completely different proposition.
With 1,767 runs in 79 matches – the most by a South African in this format of the game – at an average of 37.59, Duminy has made this format his own. This is something which the South African management agrees with too, and it was a reason why he was given the captaincy for the Indian series when Faf du Plessis was injured.
"The format is different. It is a quicker and more aggressive format. And it will naturally bring out the best in us," Duminy said before the T20I series.
Whether or not that holds true for the young guns in the South African side, for Duminy at least, it fits the bill. A naturally aggressive batsman, the Cape Cobras player seems to be caught between two worlds in ODIs, but in T20s his perfect concoction of daredevilry and strike rotation works wonders.
This was on full display at Centurion in the second T20I in which Duminy played second fiddle to a rampant Heinrich Klaasen before taking over the lead role after the dismissal of the wicket-keeper-batsman and guiding the Proteas home with an over to spare.
He was quick to pounce on anything loose from the Indian bowlers and constantly kept the scoreboard ticking even when the boundaries weren't quite flowing. While sticking to his basics, Duminy chose the perfect time to launch an attack – the penultimate over where he sealed the game with back-to-back sixes off Jaydev Unadkat – which prevented a one-on-one with Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the final over.
For those who are aware of the difference in confidence that Duminy the T20 player oozes, the knock wasn't very surprising. He has time and again delivered in the shortest format of the game whether it be for Delhi Daredevils, Cape Cobras or South Africa.
In the first T20I of the 2015 South African tour of India, at Dharamsala, it was Duminy's heroics that helped Proteas chase down a mammoth 200 after they had lost Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and du Plessis before reaching 100. The unperturbed southpaw slammed seven maximums and thumped Bhuvneshwar for 14 runs in the 19th over to seal the contest.
The year 2017 was a rare blip in Duminy's T20I career, but apart from that he has managed to rack up pretty good averages almost every year since 2012, even though the sample size is comparatively lesser. His Indian Premier League (IPL) record during this time frame is also eye-catching while his records in other formats of the game are better not discussed, once again highlighting his penchant for T20s.
|Year||Average in T20I||Average in IPL|
With the series decider against India set to be played at Cape Town on Saturday, South Africa would once again bank on their stand-in skipper for experience and runs. Unlike in other formats, Duminy is more confident of himself in T20s and could be the guiding light that salvages South Africa's limited-overs horror show in the past few weeks.
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