Just walked through the door
What’s it gonna be?
I can’t get to the floor
Girls all over me
Where my party p’party party p’party people at?
Those lines from Nelly’s 2008 song, “Party People” (ft. Fergie) aptly describe how JP Duminy dealt with fame.
He ‘d roll up to parties with a baggy polo hanging well below his waist, except for a small portion tucked into the part above his oversized buckle.
He wanted the party people; the faces in the dark to notice him, to celebrate him, perhaps even lift him up on their shoulders.
A lot like we did.
In only his second test match, Duminy scored 166 to lead South Africa from 141-6 to 459. He took South Africa from being more than 250 runs in arrears to Australia’s 394 to being in pole position. And surely enough, the wounded and winded Australians quickly folded.
JP had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, winning not just the match, but also the series.
He’d emerged from the baptism of fire down under as a household name, a legend in the making, a superstar.
A superstar that the Mumbai Indians would splurge $950,000 for at the IPL 2009 Auction.
Although they barely gave him any game time, that didn’t matter. JP was a deity in a foreign land, revered for his divine talents. As he got swept up in fame, and the frenzy of notorious ‘IPL Nights,’ he lost his way and his career stalled.
Finding God. Finding Humility
“I was a lazy young cricketer, who did the bare minimum to get by and it kind of caught up with me,” recalled Duminy in Netflix docuseries ‘Cricket Fever: Mumbai Indians.’
“The pressures of playing the game, you kind of indulge in different things like partying, excessive drinking. I got to a point where I kind of needed to look at myself in the mirror and ask myself where am I going, you know?”
He began to meet one-on-one with a pastor, discussing faith, spirituality, and what he was going through. He even joined up with AB, Faf, and David Miller to form a bible study group while on tour. At the end of one of these study sessions, JP made a choice that has shaped him ever since.
“One of the sessions was called ‘Salvation’ and at the end of the chapter it asked you the question of whether you are willing to commit yourself to God. On that night all four of us committed our lives to him.”
JP Duminy switched from a partygoer to a churchgoer. The young man who vied for the spotlight at IPL Nights had evolved into a conscientious, grounded, family man.
On the field, he knew he was not putting his best foot forward, and he had decided to change that.
JP 2.0 has since gone on to conquer the world, racking up double centuries in test cricket and winning a World Cup for South Africa. Not only is he one of the finest batsmen that South Africa has ever produced, he’s also a quality all-rounder, and their most successful captain.
….. Except he isn’t. The paragraph above is full of lies.
10 Years of Unfulfilled Potential
With JP Duminy standing at the twilight of his career—having recently announced that he is retiring from ODI’s at the end of the World Cup—it must be said that he’s a far cry from the player we all thought he would become.
There were times when South Africa was hopeful that he had turned a corner. He took a hat-trick at the last world cup, scored another century against Australia down under, and even hit Eddie Lee for 37 runs in an over. Unfortunately, these rare flashes of brilliance have been punctuated by strings of poor returns and injuries.
Despite being a veteran of 46 test matches, Duminy has finished his career with an average of 32.85.
His 4 hundreds in ODI’s against Zimbabwe (3) and Netherlands (1) have contributed heavily to his inflated average of 37.16 in the format.
His bowling has fallen away too. He’s only taken 7 wickets at an average of 76.71 and economy of 5.71 since 2017.
Duminy has laboured through overs 11-40 since WC 2015, scoring at a SR of 75. A soft dismissal to Moeen Ali in the curtain raiser of the World Cup was emblematic of his struggles in the middle overs.
Why pick him at all?
Despite his struggles in Powerplay 2, Duminy is the best finisher in the team after skipper Faf. Since the end of the last World Cup, he has a Strike Rate of 145 in the last 10 overs, and a dot ball percentage of just 27%.
Despite the fact that he cannot really be counted on to deliver his full quota, South Africa only need him to chip in with 2-3 overs in case one of the regular bowlers has an off night.
After Hashim Amla retired hurt against England in the fist game, JP was essentially forced to bat one number higher than he otherwise would have.
You’d have to be incredibly stubborn to deny the fact that JP Duminy does not score hundreds against top-class opposition.
But does he have to?
Replacing him with David Miller would leave Aiden Markram as the lone support for the Proteas’ regular bowlers. Replacing him with Steyn and Shamsi would lengthen South Africa’s tail. Chris Morris hasn’t exactly been in top form either.
Despite his unfulfilled potential, the left-hander is an important cog in South Africa’s wheel. The data suggests that as long as South Africa’s middle order can hold their ground, Duminy can come in and plump up their score.
He may not be a match-winner, he may not be the man for a crisis, but he’s an important cog in the wheel if used wisely.
A Solid Bloke, a Team Player
Observers often wonder how Duminy’s career has taken such a different turn to what we were expecting. Whatever the reason, it’s not because of a lack of effort or discipline. If anything, he’s tried too hard and put too much pressure on himself.
However, he’ll bat wherever you ask him to, and bowl to the biggest hitters and the shortest boundaries. No matter how many times he gets hit, no matter how many times he gets out cheaply, no matter how many times he gets injured, he will put in the hard yards to get better.
His newfound humility led South Africa to believe that he would push on. Although this has not worked out in practice, you cannot deny that JP Duminy is a team-player.
Late last year, after his wife Sue gave birth to their second daughter Alexa-Rose, she took to social media to thank her husband.
“Thanks my love for standing next to me every minute of the 26 hours in labour. I hope you can still manage to catch a ball after all those contraction-hand-grasps.”
Despite not delivering to his potential for South Africa, Jean-Paul Duminy is already a Hall-of-Famer in the team that matters most to him.