Champions Trophy 2013 May 29, 2013

Duminy confident of making impact on return

What could have been a painfully long six months for JP Duminy actually turned into a pleasantly productive period. He spent the time recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, which forced him out of the game but into other pursuits - like voice training and adopting abandoned dogs.

"It's been a long road but I've learnt a lot about myself," Duminy told ESPNcricinfo before the South African squad departed for a training camp in Amsterdam. "When you're out of the game for so long, you find out new things about yourself because you are focusing outside of cricket."

On his return from Australia, where the injury occurred, Duminy had no choice but to take some time off while his foot was enclosed in a boot. He could barely walk so exercise was out of the question. He and his wife Sue went away on weekends, exploring the South African coastline and bush and spending time with their family.

After meeting up with an animal rescue organisation that seeks to find new homes for dogs that have been mistreated, they decided to adopt Dimples. They have since added a second hound to the brood. The pets played their own role in Duminy's recovery, with walks on the beach a regular activity once the boot came off.

Activities like boxing, swimming and upper-body training kept Duminy fit and it was only in the last month that he was able to resume cricketing activity. With Gary Kirsten also Cape Town based, Duminy had a personalised session with the coach to get his eye back in.

And that was not the only way Duminy stayed connected to cricket. He also made sure he was up to speed with the team's goings on and was a guest commentator for SABC during the home series against Pakistan. He enjoyed that so much, he signed up at the Voice Clinic to improve his delivery and presentation skills.

Now the dalliances behind the scenes are over and Duminy is ready to make his comeback in a global tournament with high expectations. In the absence of Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith, Duminy is likely to slot straight back in to the XI, ahead of the likes of Farhaan Behardien or David Miller, even though those two have been playing cricket more recently than he has. Duminy, however, is not too concerned about going in cold.

"It's hard to say [if] I'm worried about form because I've got nothing to go by. I've got to go out there, thinking best when fresh [at the crease]," he said. "I am confident I can produce the goods I have in the past. I've played my role pretty well over the last few years so it's just about slotting back in there."

Duminy is also ready mentally, in that he has managed to banish the fear that a freak accident could happen at any time, as it did, to the back of his mind. "I've had some very good people looking after me, an outstanding medical team and fitness trainer. If they say I am ready to play again, I've got every confidence in them that they know what they are talking about."

He had his first net session on Tuesday and told the team's Youtube channel it went well. "I was a little bit nervy at first, but it was great to be out there again spending time with the guys and facing competitive bowlers," he said. "That was the key thing for me and it was a really good first net. After a six-month lay-off you're worried about how it's going to go and whether you are going to time the ball well. So I was pretty pleased with the way it went."

South Africa play two matches before the tournament starts, against the Netherlands on Friday and Pakistan next Monday, so Duminy will have two more opportunities at the crease before the competition really starts. Then, he knows the pressure will be massive and he will be one of South Africa's key figures in their bid for major tournament silverware.

"The expectation on us is similar to what it has always been and we want to win," he said. "But there are no guarantees that we will win. We want to do our best and hopefully that best is that we will come back with the trophy."

According to Duminy, it will be important for the squad not to be haunted by their failings in the past. "It's tough to say [that] we've accepted those defeats better because there is no easy way to do that. What we have to make sure is that our self-belief is not stamped on. We still believe in ourselves as people and as a team and we know we will get there at some stage. Eventually the hard work will pay off."

And if it doesn't pay off this time? "If things don't go well, the sun will still rise, life will still go on." After his injury layoff, Duminy knows that better than most.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent