Still time to make more memories - JP
When we met on Thursday, hours before the Proteas' match against the Springboks at Newlands, the man of the house was on the front patio, playing with the family dogs and enjoying being home again.
Inside, amongst the plaudits and trophies, and team jerseys, JP Duminy and his wife of five years, Sue, have erected a ‘cool wall’ of sorts, a montage of pictures that tell the life story of an odyssey that has gone from Strandfontein to all over the world, on the back of one of the most stylish, if not completely fulfilled, talents in South African cricket.
There is the house he grew up in, his beaming parents, various matches from different age-groups in different countries and, of course, a plethora of Proteas’ memories from on and off the field. He freely admits that he never assumed that game would take him this far.
“It’s been an amazing journey, one that has been truly humbling,” the 32-year-old smiled.
“What has made it even more special is that I have shared a lot of those memories with a group of guys that are like family.”
That group includes Vernon Philander, AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis, boys who became men and fathers together, even as they were trekking around the world.
“There is a new dynamic in the team now. I think on our last trip to Australia, there were about 10 fathers in the squad,” he mused.
On that trip, away from the nappies, the early wake-up calls and the bedtime stories, Duminy wrote another chapter into his love story with Australia. He has often been criticised for not having the record that backs up his extraordinary natural talent, but he does love being in Australia.
“I don’t know how to explain it, but they just seem to bring out the best in me.”
His average in Australia very nearly doubles his paltry career Test average that sits at a touch over 33, which remains one of cricket’s great mysteries. Australians again purred at the magnificence of his off-side play, the certainty of his foot movement, and the effortless grace of his driving.
The manner in which he added a priceless 141 in Perth, to the 166 of Melbourne eight years ago, was a reminder of what he can do on his day, a mixture of doughtiness and delight, just the man that South Africa requires in its middle-order.
“I missed the 2012 trip due to injury, so to be a part of this third series victory was very special. It’s not an easy place to go, and to have won three times in a row as a team is something that we cherish.”
Duminy, as one of the senior players in the South African dressing-room, also pointed out that they have learnt to cherish the moments that they still have together. Barely a year ago, when he was dropped from the Test side after a barren Indian excursion, he considered leaving the Test arena as it was; a desert of a run graph, save for a few, magnificent Manhattan buildings.
In Australia, he reminded the world that he still possesses all the skills, as well as the substance to go with the style. He wants more of it, too, given that the end of his storied journey is closer than the beginning.
“I think we still have a lot to accomplish as a side, and we have had a good year. Beating Australia in the Tests was a special effort, but so was beating them 5-0 in the one-dayers. Our coaching team challenged us to go for 5-0, because no team has gone there before.
“In a series that long, you probably expect to lose one or two, but once we could see the potential of a whitewash in front of us, we really focused on finishing the job.”
That dose of confidence spilled over to the Test series, and there is already talk that South Africa will again be in the running for the ICC Champions Trophy next year.
“There is a lot of cricket to be played before then, so we are not getting ahead of ourselves. We host Sri Lanka now, and then go to New Zealand, and they are both contenders at every ICC tournament,” Duminy warned.
“If we can build on the Australian victories, and then win against those teams, we will go into that tournament with a lot of confidence. I think that our mental approach has changed, and we were very honest with ourselves as a squad after 2015. We had a good chat before the New Zealand series, and we are in a much better space as a team,” he noted.
That space has seen then rebuild their reputation after a torrid 2015/16 campaign, which saw them lose their number one Test ranking, as well as a home series to England. Now, with some fresh wind in their sails, they are ready to go again.
For Duminy, the final chapter of his career also holds the potential opportunity to redress some matters on his cricket CV. He has started the JP21 Foundation, which gives back to the game that has given him so much. He will become increasingly more hands-on once he is done playing, but that aspect is not done just yet.
His Test average needs to nudge up towards 40, for a start, and to be part of a team that regains its number one Test status would be significant, too. But, as he and the rest of the Proteas’ squad know, a major trophy is one thing that is still expected from them.
After all, within the confines of a warm family home in Plattekloof, there is a cool wall still accepting submissions of national importance.