JP and ‘Jimmy’to balance things out
THE name that will leap out immediately from the Proteas Test line-up today is the one that sits in the heart of what captain Hashim Amla calls the “business end”, the middleorder.
JP Duminy is back and suddenly there is a different look to the side as a whole. The tail, which concerned many observers in the Mohali Test, suddenly shrivels with Dane Vilas at seven instead of six, and the mix of three different spinners with three quicks gives Amla plenty of options.
It is often taken for granted but Duminy’s absence has been keenly felt, in both the one-day side and in the first Test. Experience and a cool head under pressure aside, South Africa’s top all-rounder provides that vital ingredient – balance.
“It’s great to have JP back in the side. Coming in where he does, around five, six and sometimes seven, he is in the business end, really. He has great know-how, and his off-spin has become really important for us,” Amla said.
The double blow of losing Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn has forced the tourists into a reshuffling of the pack, but Amla maintains that this is all part of the process involved in doing well for extended periods as a squad.
“To win a series, it takes 15 players and not just 11. Losing Dale and Vernon is a big blow, but we are lucky to have quality cricketers to back them up. Our bowling, especially, has great depth,” he said.
Enter Kyle Abbott. The lanky Dolphins seamer is still waiting for the ink to dry on his stamp from customs, but he is going straight into a Test match of much significance, for him and his side.
“Jimmy”, as Abbott is known, has had few opportunities to showcase his talents, often suspended in that awkward waiting room between franchise cricket star and international regular.
And yet whenever the ball has been chucked to him, he has stepped up. Remember his Test match debut? He burst onto the scene with seven wickets against Pakistan. And then he had to wait and wait for his next bite of the cherry. A full year, it was.
His ODI career has also had the start- stop routine. But Amla expects that Abbott will be just fine.
“We have a potent bowling attack to back-up. Kyle will be ready. He has been one of our outstanding reserve bowlers over the years, and he has done exceptionally well when he has got an opportunity to play.”
Abbott would have smiled all the way from Bangalore International Airport to the Ritz Carlton on arrival, as the grey blanket that has hemmed in this vibrant city all week should play into his ball-curving hands.
At worst, he should be a handful. At best, as Amla said cheerfully, Abbott might just enjoy a fairytale and produce something like that famous debut against India’s favourite neighbours.
“Kyle has some of what Vern brings, in terms of his consistency on where he lands ball. So he will give us control, and a lot of know how about his game. He’s a wonderful pro, so I know that even straight off the plane, he will be ready,” he said.
That settles that question, then. Amla wasn’t too bothered about the weather predictions for Bangalore, even as locals were concerned that each day may be interrupted by some sort of shower or thunderstorm. “We are not too worried, because those are things that are out of our control,” the skipper added.
The Proteas, even without their two new-ball operators, have plenty of motivation for this match. Losing in three days hurt. They are also keen to prove their adaptability to all conditions, and reaffirm their status as the world’s best travelling Test side.
They may not have all their stars, but they have that key ingredient in winning on the subcontinent. They have their balance back.
I REALLY GOT ALL-ROUND SKILLS: JP Duminy during a training session ahead of today’s Test match against India at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.