• With JP the ‘what ifs’ will always be there

    JP Duminy’s career has left us with more ‘what ifs’ than Game of Thrones’ ending.

    The diminutive left-hander seems to be retiring from international cricket with a lot of peace in his heart but what about the rest of us?

    Game of Thrones had us properly gripped in season one. They killed off main characters, had a plethora of plot twists and there were more backstabbing than at a Bloemfontein beauty pageant.

    But the final season – especially the last episode – left us all rather underwhelmed and upset. After eight years the show basically finished in the most unspectacular way possible. ‘What if?’ was the narrative from fans all over the world, who couldn’t believe that the show ended on such an unappetising note.

    It’s almost a metaphor for JP’s international career, which came to an end on Saturday night after the Proteas beat Australia in their final World Cup match – a dead rubber – before heading home after missing out on the playoffs.

    A career that started brightly, with two match-winning knocks against Australia in consecutive Tests, and ended rather unspectacularly at Old Trafford on Saturday night.

    In 2008 Duminy scored an unbeaten 50 on debut against Australia in Perth that included striking the winning runs in the second-highest Test run chase of all time. He then scored a magnificent 166 in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG to get South Africa out of a jam in a position from where they could clinch the three-Test series.

    But he left the stage with a 13-ball 14 after coming in with seven overs to go. He was steady with the ball, conceding just 22 runs from his four overs against Australia.

    In between there were a lot of ups and downs, with the stats suggesting more downs than ups. A career that will likely be summed up a rollercoaster ride of promise and inconsistency.

    The talent and his natural stroke-play ability certainly don’t match the numbers, as he ended his international career with 2103 Test runs at an average of 32.85 in 46 matches and 5,117 runs at 36.81 in 199 ODIs.

    However, Duminy does boast a world-class record in T20 internationals, as he averages 38.68 in 81 matches for his country. His 1,934 runs also put him seventh on the all-time T20I runs-scoring list.

    That’s why it’s such a surprise that he won’t at the forefront of the Proteas charge to try to make amends for their 50-over World Cup disaster with a good showing at next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia.

    Struggles against off-spin bowling and the short ball were really his undoing in the Test arena throughout his career, while batting in various positions in the ODI side also didn’t give him a proper platform to build from.

    But he also had enough chances on the international stage to forge a good career. It didn’t quite materialise.

    But while many are frustrated that Duminy didn’t have a stellar Test career following such an explosive start, the smart left-hander is content with what he has achieved during his 12-year international career.

    ‘I’ll never have regrets. Yes, I’ve been classified as a talented cricketer who didn’t necessarily achieve his full potential. I certainly feel I have, not necessarily through the numbers, but through my experiences and how you influence people’s lives while playing for Proteas,’ Duminy said in a television interview ahead of the World Cup match against Australia.

    ‘There are various facets for me that contribute to fulfilling a career. People often look at stats, but for me it’s how you affect people’s lives with this opportunity. For me that’s a fulfilling life, giving to other people. Being there for others.

    ‘There is nothing better than a performance, getting a victory or getting a man of the match. Those kinds of highs you will only get on the international stage and I was fortunate to have many moments like that.

    ‘But when it comes to numbers, everybody will have an opinion. I will never hold grudges against people, those are their opinions. But I’m comfortable with who I am and comfortable with what opportunities I have had at this level.

    ‘In international cricket, you are not going to be remembered for the numbers that I have. But that doesn’t leave a sour taste in my mouth. I want to be remembered as someone who could be relied on,” Duminy added.

    Duminy is certainly touching people’s lives, as his JP21 Foundation is doing some amazing work with young cricketers on the Cape Flats where he grew up and started his journey to international stardom.

    But, like Game of Thrones, he also touched the lives of many cricket fans, and will be remembered for his glorious cover drive, exquisite late cut and power hitting over mid-wicket and extra cover.

    It wasn’t the ending we all were hoping for, JP. The ‘what ifs’ will always be there. But if you’re happy with what you have achieved – which is more than most people do in a lifetime – then we should rather applaud you instead of admonishing your efforts.

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    John Goliath