Chittagong – Forget everything that has gone before. This is an ICC tournament and it is unique in its own right.
That is JP Duminy’s message to the rest of his Proteas teammates ahead of the crucial World T20 opening game here against Sri Lanka at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium tomorrow.
Duminy, at 29, is part of a new core of senior Proteas, now that the likes of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis are no longer there to share their experiences with a fresh group of young players. He has played in seven (four World T20s, two Champions Trophies and one World Cup) previous ICC jamborees and is acutely aware of the disappointment of each inglorious exits.
But in the same breath, Duminy has also been a part of some special Test series victories in England and Australia, and has played pivotal roles in limited-overs successes, most notably in Sri Lanka last year when he was named Man of the T20 Series. It was the first time a team from South Africa won any sort of series on the island since 1994.
“What’s happened has happened, hey. The past doesn’t count for much,” was Duminy’s frank response yesterday. “It is a World Cup. It is different pressures. From a personal perspective, it does give you a little confidence to have done well against the bowling attack but that still doesn’t count for anything. I still have to work out my game plan to be successful. We have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
South Africa have two ICC tournament greenhorns in Beuran Hendricks, David Miller and Quinton de Kock although, while the latter was not officially part of last year’s Champions Trophy squad in the United Kingdom, he travelled with the team as the reserve batsman.
De Kock and David Miller are certain to start tomorrow, with only Hendricks unsure of a berth in the playing XI, against a Sri Lankan team that boast veterans like Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan.
The stakes have been raised further for two-time losing World T20 finalists with Jayawardene following his good friend and business partner Sangakkara’s decision to call time on their T20 international career after this World T20.
Young Sri Lankans like Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne will have added motivation to play for their childhood heroes, much the same way the Proteas tried their best to send Kallis and Smith off in glory.
However, these momentous events can also prove to be mentally distracting, like it was for Smith throughout his last Test series against Australia, and negatively impact on the retiring player’s performance.
With Sri Lankan chief selector and former captain and teammate Sanath Jayasuriya expressing surprise at the legendary duo’s double retirement, and even admitting to feeling “very let down by them” for not informing him prior to their announcement to the media, could this be a potential gap for the Proteas to exploit?
“Having played against them for a while now, I don’t think the emotions will play a role. They have always been the ultimate professionals and I’m sure they will be giving 100percent,” Duminy said.
“They are the core of Sri Lanka’s batting unit and remain important players for their team.”
South Africa did not train yesterday with the team travelling to the seaside city of Chittagong from the capital Dhaka, where they had spent the past week preparing with two warm-up matches against Bangladesh A and Pakistan. They will have one final training session in Chittagong, and not even at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, but at the MA Aziz Stadium in the city centre instead.
“I think we would have liked a little longer, especially as we only have one day to prepare here.
“But that’s what it is and I think from the bowlers’ point of view, the guys have been making strides.
“However, I think it’s still going to come down to the batting and how well we perform.” - The Star