Battling with form is not the end of a career

2010-02-25 00:00

CRICKET can be a cruel leveller. One minute you are at the top of your game and the next you’re battling to hold your place in the team. No one knows this better than JP Duminy at the moment­.

Seeing Duminy battling with form and sliding further down the batting order, it’s easy to forget that his remarkable Test debut in the series against Australia was just over a year ago.

From the beginnings of his cricket career at Western Province there has been much expectation and considerable pressure on this talented young cricketer’s shoulders. Duminy made his first-class debut for the Cobras at the tender age of 17 and had a very successful first season. He was soon hailed as the next South African cricketing sensation. With such a label his subsequent loss of form was not surprising.

There is a tendency in South Africa to select players who show potential before they are ready and Duminy was no exception. Instead of allowing his natural game to develop and letting him learn the ropes from the senior players around him Duminy was pushed. Thankfully he did not go off the rails completely, but it did take a good few seasons to get back on track.

Since then we have all witnessed Duminy’s class and have seen his potential. He will get through his current slump and emerge an even better cricketer for it if he’s handled correctly. Being dropped from the team and going away and working on your game is tough, but it may be an option. Matthew Hayden one of Australia’s all-time batting greats was forced to do this after he couldn’t get a run in South Africa. It must have been a huge blow to his ego, but he came back stronger.

After Duminy’s Test debut in Australia Ian Chappel said that in his opinion Duminy has the potential to be a great and to take the mantle from Ricky Ponting. This may well happen in the future but at the moment JP is really struggling. Jacques Kallis sums up the situation simply by saying that it’s tough for young players especially in their second or third season when opposing sides have worked you out, but that JP is a good player and big runs could be just around the corner.

Having experienced senior players on the field with him who have gone through similarly tough times in their career and who have come through them is just the kind of support that JP needs. There is no greater way for a young cricketer to learn than having a senior player talking and guiding him through a rough position.

The situation in the Dolphins franchise at the moment highlights the important role played by senior players. After pensioning off a bunch of senior imports (discarded by other franchises) who took the place of young local players, the Dolphins find themselves in an unenviable position.

While cutting the dead wood is commendable, the impact that past selection decisions have had on the development of younger players is huge and a whole generation of cricketers­ has been lost.

Hashim Amla was one of the lucky ones as he was selected to play for South Africa and could bat around the likes of Smith and Kallis. The Dolphins­ will now have to play catch- up cricket and inexperienced cricketers­ will have to take on the role of senior players and leaders to get the status quo right.

As for Duminy he will continue to take courage from the great senior players around him. His current slump is hopefully just a small setback in a career which has much promise and potential.

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