Duminy injured in peak form, say team-mates
Just before Mark Boucher suffered his eye injury in Taunton, he was preparing to play in the last series of his career, and said he was fitter than ever. It was not an empty claim. Boucher had been doing boxing drills with South Africa's fitness trainer and looked more agile and attentive than at any time in recent memory.
JP Duminy had reached a similar peak before he ruptured his Achillles tendon at the Gabba. After a training run in Sydney, Hashim Amla was so impressed by Duminy's form that he said Duminy "should be at the Olympics." At nets this week, Faf du Plessis noticed Duminy was in particularly good nick. "I told him, 'you're looking really good in the nets, you're hitting the ball nicely and this is going to be the next series for you,'" Du Plessis said.
Duminy's Test series, however, ended before it began, when he slipped during a fitness drill at the end of the first day's play in Brisbane. Although the injury is not career-ending, like Boucher's was, it took the South African squad back to a place they hoped not to revisit this year. Not all of them saw it happen.
"I was sitting having some dinner and I just saw some guys carrying someone in," said Du Plessis, who will field for Duminy and is likely to take his spot in the XI for the rest of the Tests in Australia. "I went to see what happened and when I saw it was JP, I just got that cold, nauseous feeling. I am obviously close with JP and I don't wish anything bad on anyone. I felt terrible. You could see it was quite serious, you could see on his face."
News travels rapidly in this age and Duminy's wife, Sue, found out about the injury via Twitter. She was making her way to Australia at the time and will complete the trip, only to take her husband home. She said it was a "terrible accident," which has left them "absolutely devastated."
For Mickey Arthur, who was the South Africa coach when Ashwell Prince was injured in 2008, which lead to Duminy making his Test debut, what happened was "a tragedy". Arthur said he would never forget the afternoon that led to Duminy being put in the Test team.
"Ashwell had an okay net and he wanted to have some time against the new ball. It was right at the back end of the net session and Makhaya wanted to bowl with the new ball and he hit Ashwell on the hand," Arthur said. "The funny thing is, JP had actually said to me that morning he had dreamt that he made his Test debut in Perth and we all had a good laugh about it."
Duminy had been part of the squad for a year, travelling as the reserve batsmen then and got his break. He admitted at the time that it felt uneasy to debut because Prince was wounded. Du Plessis will now experience the same thing after being part of the Test set-up for only five months.
"I knew I would be next in line straight away because I know I am a replacement batter if something went wrong with one of the guys playing," Du Plessis said. "The feeling was there that I am going to play in the next Test but it wasn't a nice feeling, it was a bad feeling."
Despite the situation, Duminy is in high spirits. He posted pictures of himself in hospital on Twitter, recovering from a surgery that has been reported as successful. His team-mates visited him and he was particularly cheered up by a surprise guest in Cadence Smith, the captain's five-month old daughter.
Duminy will be in Australia until the end of the first Test. He will travel home next week, while some members of the South African squad go fishing and others, like Du Plessis, head to the Sunshine Coast for a few days off.
It will be six months before Duminy can play cricket again. He will miss eight Test matches in the South African summer, five Twenty20s and eight ODIs before April. He will probably not take part in the IPL,and his earliest opportunity for a comeback could be the Champions Trophy in June in England.
By then, someone like Du Plessis could have established himself in the Test team but Arthur is certain Duminy will be able to fight his way back in. "He will come back better and stronger, I'm sure," he said.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent