JP Duminy’s versatility will be a determining factor in the Proteas’ success or failure in the upcoming ODI series against Sri Lanka.
South Africa’s ODI World Cup build-up starts this Sunday with the first of 24 fixtures in the lead-up to the showpiece event, which will take place in Australia and New Zealand early next year.
Victory in the fixture, and the series as a whole, is vital for the Proteas to get their preparations off to the best possible start. And I believe that JP Duminy’s form could be the determining factor.
The opening pair of Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock seem settled (even if De Kock suffers struggles similar to the last time he was in Sri Lanka, Amla should be able to post one or two big totals from the top), and with Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers expected to come in at Nos 3 and 4 respectively, the top four looks solid.
But it’s the positions of 5, 6, and 7 that are the issue. In ODIs those three are particularly valuable batsmen, as they are not only expected to rotate the strike from overs 30 to 40, but also to finish off the innings with some big hits, without exposing the tail to the death bowlers.
And for the Proteas, those three slots are expected to be filled by Faf du Plessis, David Miller and Duminy. No matter which position Duminy occupies (it will most likely depend on the game situation), his experience and ability to deal with the spinners on subcontinental tracks will be crucial.
Last year, his pair of half-centuries in the T20Is in Sri Lanka led South Africa to a series win, something which was much-needed after the 4-1 thrashing in the ODIs. He also contributed a 97 in the ODI series to be one of the top performers during that tour, and he will need to recapture that form to steady a middle order that has been shaky in the past few ODI series.
While Du Plessis and Miller are considered part of the furniture in the ODI dressingroom, both have struggled for consistency. They can be effective on their day, but they get it wrong too often to be relied upon to lead the innings through it’s most vital stage.
That’s where Duminy will be valuable. With 115 games under his belt, he’s got more caps than Du Plessis (47) and Miller (40) combined, and it’s up to him to make the step up and lead the middle order though those crucial middle overs.
The good news is that Duminy has acknowledged this, saying before the Proteas departed for Sri Lanka that he has realised he is now a member of the senior core of the side. If he can fulfil his potential and pile on the runs in the three-match series against Sri Lanka, they will have a good chance of winning the series, and gaining some momentum as their focus increasingly shifts to the format over the next few months.
Add in Duminy’s improving form with the ball as a spinner, and his value is compounded, meaning he could effectively play dual roles for the side, leaving a slot open for another batsman or bowler to be picked, depending on the requirements of the surface.