JP Duminy expects to play a key role with the ball in the World T20 © Getty Images
All the dress rehearsals are over. South Africa have prepared at home and away, they have played at home and away, they have won at home and away. For good measure, they even lost at home, to Australia, and all of that will stand South Africa in good stead for the four matches they will play from Friday as they aim for a semi-final berth.
Their World T20 group stage starts against England, an opposition they recently beat 2-0, but the real test will only come two weeks from now if they reach the knockouts. That’s when the fruits of all the training and playing and winning (and losing) will show. This time South Africa have a different plan and it’s nothing fancy at all.
“When you are under pressure and your heart rate is 180, it’s hard to keep your thinking clear and that’s why we’ve spoken about doing the basics well,” JP Duminy explained. “If you focus on something that easy, it gives you a good chance of putting in a big performance in that situation.”
South Africa learnt that from their most recent defeats, not the string of wins that saw them chase successfully for five matches on the trot. It was only when they fumbled in the field and sent down extras at the death against Australia, that the basics came into sharper focus and they have promised not to lose sight of them.
For Duminy, that message has wider implications. There have been suggestions that South Africa’s highest run-scorer in T20 cricket is in the squad on reputation because his recent performances have been far from promising. He has not crossed fifty in 21 international innings since the team’s last visit to India, last October, but that is a statistic he is determined to put right.
“I will be lying if I say it hasn’t been a really average season for me,” Duminy admitted. “But I enjoy these events and I feel very refreshed at a world event like this.”
Already, Duminy has been back in the runs with 67 in the warm-up match against India and even though he only managed 22 in the second match – where he played for Mumbai Cricket Association XI against his own side – he knows he won’t have to face the bowler who removed him, Kyle Abbott, in the tournament.
He will, however, have to bowl despite a summer where his role as an allrounder was scaled down in order for him to focus on his batting. In the subcontinent, South Africa are still likely to field only one specialist spinner – Imran Tahir – and will want a second slower-bowling option. Duminy wants to embrace the chance to contribute in another way. “I know that’s going to bring a lot of opportunities for me, especially in these conditions. Hopefully when given that opportunity I can make it count,” he said.
Ultimately, the word opportunity is what South Africa have on repeat as they go into this tournament. They’re not viewing it as an examination of whether they can finally win a global trophy but as an opportunity to try and see if they can.
“We’ve taken massive strides in these events. In the past, we’ve buckled under the pressure. If we look back to the last T20 and 50-over World Cup where we reached the semi-finals, we were outplayed,” Duminy said. “It’s when we haven’t given our best that we’ve let ourselves down. Quietly confident is the phrase that’s going around, especially in the shorter format. We are looking forward to this tournament.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo