In & Out: With Faf away, Duminy won’t stray

2014-10-05 15:00

Earlier this week, we learnt that JP Duminy will captain the Proteas T20 team in about a month’s time when they take on the Aussies down under.

This because Faf du Plessis, the regular T20 captain and consummate beta boytjie, is in need of some R&R. I suppose no one, not even Faf, can be fabulous all the time, especially after such a ­flamingly fantastic showing in Zimbabwe last month.

All those hours of rock-hard concentration must have really taken it out of Marathon Man, as Faf is known by his team-mates, ­although now they might want to nickname him something less contingent on form, like Rocksteady or Deadpan.

On his temporary appointment, Duminy was quoted as ­saying he actually performs best when he’s “leading from the front”, although he admitted the last time he took the reins was in high school (impressive that, at 30, the guy still remembers high school).

Maybe a leading role is what he needs to set his form straight.

Even though on paper his T20 international batting figures stand out from the rest of the South ­African pack – averaging 37.27 in 55 matches with a strike rate of 124.48 – one gets a sense his batting in all formats has been straying of late.

When Duminy made his name against Australia in 2008 with 166 runs from a stylish pink-gripped willow in just his second test, we thought we were witnessing the rise of a ­legend.

His elegant, seemingly limp-wristed flicks have notched up many runs, but he didn’t really blossom into the middle-order pinch-hitter we’d all hoped for.

He’s well aware his flair alone won’t be enough to seal the deal, so to speak.

The acting T20 captain told Espncricinfo: “Beating Australia in Zimbabwe was a step in the right direction, but there’s a few months to go before the World Cup and we’re playing some stiff opposition before then.”

Stiff indeed.

One would assume that by “leading from the front”, he means taking on whatever mental games, or otherwise, the Australians have to throw at him, and in the process marshalling his troops and making the right decisions at the right times, while also ticking the boxes on his personal performance scorecard.

That responsibility can be a tad ­overwhelming in the T20 format, where the frantic pace makes it difficult enough to keep track of the score (especially with the likes of David Warner at the crease), let alone get a feel of where batsmen or bowlers’ soft spots might lie.

It’s a tough job, and a sporting platitude like “leading from the front” might just have been a defence mechanism JP ­employed while nervously facing the press upon the ­announcement of his captaincy.

Perhaps in the lead-up to the series in Australia, JP should try spend some quality time with Faf – maybe cruise a spa or two – and find out exactly what makes a T20 international captain tick.

But then again, Faf hasn’t exactly led the Proteas up the yellow brick road in the ICC rankings (they’re currently fourth).

Nevertheless, JP’s heart and mind is in the right place. He’s viewing every bit of cricket he plays from now until the World Cup next year as preparation.

Maybe that’s the mind-set necessary to lead from the front after all.

Longbottom is an armchair cricket critic. His soccer age is 31 so he has only flickering flashbacks of high school

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