There is little to gain from pushing a partially-fit JP Duminy to play in the three-Test series against the West Indies.
Summer is here and the festive season is upon us. Many fans will be taking leave over the next few weeks, and I’m sure that a large number of South Africans will flock to Centurion, St Georges Park, and Newlands to watch the Proteas do battle with the West Indies.
It’s been nine months since we’ve witnessed a Test match in this country, and no doubt the locals will be itching for their five-day fix. It’s been too long since the No 1 Test side put on a show for their fans. For that reason alone, there should be some interest in the coming series.
Whether the three matches will serve up a decent contest is a point of debate. The West Indies are currently eighth in the ICC Test rankings, and will be without Chris Gayle and Darren Bravo. South Africa may be tempted to protect their own ranking rather than innovate and experiment.
The Proteas’ focus at this stage, of course, has to be the 2015 World Cup. Bearing this point in mind, one has to wonder why the selectors would push a partially fit senior player to compete in a largely insignificant Test series against a team that is ranked eight in the world. Why run the risk of further injury to a senior player who will be central to the Proteas’ cause at the 50-over tournament next February?
JP Duminy has battled with a knee injury for some time, and has already been ruled out of the first Test at Centurion. On Tuesday, it emerged that the Proteas all-rounder may not be fit for the last two matches of the series either. It’s more likely that Duminy will be fit for the three T20Is and five ODIs in January.
The Proteas will miss Duminy in the series against the West Indies, both from a batting and bowling perspective. Duminy has the ability to score some important runs at the back end of an innings, and has taken on more responsibility in recent seasons with regards to marshalling the tail. His off-spin has improved significantly, and he can be counted on to make key breakthroughs as well as hold up an end.
The role of Duminy the Test player is much the same as that of Duminy the ODI player. He lends a team balance in both formats, as well as a wealth of experience.
Some will say that this is why he needs to play in the Test series against the West Indies. I would argue that this is why he shouldn’t be rushed back.
If there is any risk of further injury to that troublesome knee, then Duminy must be allowed more time to recuperate with a view to being ready for the World Cup. It’s at that tournament where the Proteas will need him most.
Perhaps a decision to exclude Duminy now will benefit the Proteas in both the middle and long term. He should be fully fit by the time the Proteas play the West Indies in those eight limited overs matches in January, and those matches should provide the player and the team with an opportunity to build momentum before the World Cup. With a view to the long term, it will do the Proteas’ Test side some good to explore an alternative in that middle order.
The selectors may be reluctant to experiment too much, though. The opening pair of Dean Elgar and Alviro Petersen still has much to prove. As well as he’s done over the past six months, Hashim Amla is still new to the captaincy. Quinton de Kock is new to the five-day game, and for all the debate, neither Robin Peterson nor Imran Tahir has made that spinner’s role his own. You can understand why Russell Domingo and company aren’t keen to make another change unless they absolutely have to.
And yet, resting Duminy is the best move with the World Cup in mind. De Kock, Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, David Miller … these are the batsmen who are expected to inflict the most damage at the global tournament. But don’t underestimate the role or importance of Duminy in the middle order. His contributions with the ball could also be crucial.
South Africa don’t need Duminy to play in the next three Tests in order to win the series against the West Indies. They will, however, need Duminy to be operating at full fitness if they are to win next year’s World Cup. The decision to extend the period of Duminy’s rest and rehabilitation into early January should be a no-brainer.