With Faf away, Du­miny won’t stray

CityPress - - Sport - Stu­art Long­bot­tom Long­bot­tom is an arm­chair cricket critic. His soc­cer age is 31 so he has only flick­er­ing flash­backs of high school

Ear­lier this week, we learnt that JP Du­miny will cap­tain the Proteas T20 team in about a month’s time when they take on the Aussies down un­der.

This be­cause Faf du Plessis, the reg­u­lar T20 cap­tain and con­sum­mate beta boytjie, is in need of some R&R. I sup­pose no one, not even Faf, can be fab­u­lous all the time, es­pe­cially after such a flam­ingly fan­tas­tic show­ing in Zim­babwe last month. All those hours of rock-hard con­cen­tra­tion must have re­ally taken it out of Marathon Man, as Faf is known by his team-mates, although now they might want to nick­name him some­thing less con­tin­gent on form, like Rock­steady or Dead­pan.

On his tem­po­rary ap­point­ment, Du­miny was quoted as say­ing he ac­tu­ally per­forms best when he’s “lead­ing from the front”, although he ad­mit­ted the last time he took the reins was in high school (im­pres­sive that, at 30, the guy still re­mem­bers high school). Maybe a lead­ing role is what he needs to set his form straight. Even though on pa­per his T20 in­ter­na­tional bat­ting fig­ures stand out from the rest of the South African pack – av­er­ag­ing 37.27 in 55 matches with a strike rate of 124.48 – one gets a sense his bat­ting in all for­mats has been stray­ing of late.

When Du­miny made his name against Aus­tralia in 2008 with 166 runs from a stylish pink-gripped wil­low in just his sec­ond test, we thought we were wit­ness­ing the rise of a legend.

His el­e­gant, seem­ingly limp-wristed flicks have notched up many runs, but he didn’t re­ally blos­som into the mid­dle-or­der pinch-hit­ter we’d all hoped for.

He’s well aware his flair alone won’t be enough to seal the deal, so to speak.

The act­ing T20 cap­tain told Es­p­n­cricinfo: “Beat­ing Aus­tralia in Zim­babwe was a step in the right di­rec­tion, but there’s a few months to go be­fore the World Cup and we’re play­ing some stiff op­po­si­tion be­fore then.” Stiff in­deed. One would as­sume that by “lead­ing from the front”, he means tak­ing on what­ever men­tal games, or oth­er­wise, the Aus­tralians have to throw at him, and in the process mar­shalling his troops and mak­ing the right de­ci­sions at the right times, while also tick­ing the boxes on his per­son­alper­for­mance score­card. That re­spon­si­bil­ity can be a tad over­whelm­ing in the T20 for­mat, where the fran­tic pace makes it dif­fi­cult enough to keep track of the score (es­pe­cially with the likes of David Warner at the crease), let alone get a feel of where bats­men or bowlers’ soft spots might lie.

It’s a tough job, and a sport­ing plat­i­tude like “lead­ing from the front” might just have been a de­fence mech­a­nism JP em­ployed while ner­vously fac­ing the press upon the an­nounce­ment of his cap­taincy. Per­haps in the lead-up to the se­ries in Aus­tralia, JP should try spend some qual­ity time with Faf – maybe cruise a spa or two – and find out ex­actly what makes a T20 in­ter­na­tional cap­tain tick. But then again, Faf hasn’t ex­actly led the Proteas up the yel­low brick road in the ICC rank­ings (they’re cur­rently fourth).

Nev­er­the­less, JP’s heart and mind is in the right place. He’s view­ing ev­ery bit of cricket he plays from now un­til the World Cup next year as prepa­ra­tion.

Maybe that’s the mind-set nec­es­sary to lead from the front after all.

– stu­art.long­bot­tom@city­press.co.za

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