In defence of Duminy
"You beauty. You superstar," is what Mark Nicholas called JP Duminy when he hit the winning runs on his Test debut against Australia at Perth in 2008. The question he might ask now, more than seven years later, is: "Where the hell have you gone?" A large portion of public perception is that Duminy is still living off the reputation he built back then.
Duminy's flagging Test form - he averaged just 14.00 in six Tests in 2015 and was dropped from the Test side - has been the biggest contributor to the growing concerns over his role in the national side. But that is not the only worry. Duminy still averages under 40 in ODIs, where he can show sparks of brilliance as a finisher but can just as easily find himself in a middle-order meltdown. His worth is starting to decrease.
On these pages, he was described as South Africa's most "frustratingly inconsistent" player and that just about sums it up, except for one thing. He is also South Africa's most successful T20 batsmen and the fourth-most successful overall.
Only Brendon McCullum, Martin Guptill and Tillakeratne Dilshan have more international T20 runs than Duminy and even his own modest assumption that he is that high on the run-charts because "I played more games than others" is not true. He has played the same number of matches as AB de Villiers (63) batted in two fewer innings (58 compared to de Villiers' 60) and has scored 361 more runs than de Villiers.
Duminy's 1528 runs have come at an average of 38.20, including eight fifties, and have been collected against a backdrop of confidence in Duminy's ability to assume responsibility.
"It was about understanding what my role was in the positions I've batted - between four and six - and trying to contribute the best way," Duminy explained at the announcement of the World T20 squad on Wednesday, where he also revealed his preferred position in the line-up. "In the last series I batted No.4 which I thoroughly enjoyed. It's probably a position I really enjoy batting in T20 cricket. Batting at No.4 in this tournament will be a good opportunity to make some influential performances."
But Duminy has a dual role to fill and so, even if he is pushed further down the order, he will also be relied on to bowl. And that's where he could show that he is more valuable than some have suggested.
Belief in Duminy as an allrounder only really started in ODI cricket in after he had properly established himself in the team, following that breakthrough series in Australia. Before then, Duminy had played 37 ODIs and bowled just 54.1 overs. From January 2009, he has played 112 ODIs and bowled 404.2 overs, including a full quota of 10 overs on four occasions.
In T20 cricket, Duminy's bowling was called a little later. His first 29 matches saw him bowl only 10 overs but from January 2011 to date, he has played 34 matches and bowled 48.1 overs including a full quota of four overs three times. Those were as recent as July last year, when Duminy bowled four overs in each of the two T20s South Africa played in Bangladesh. They won that series 2-0 to begin a victorious streak on the subcontinent in the shortest format, in which they also beat India in the build-up to the World T20.
Conditions at the tournament will be similar, which suggests Duminy will be used in a bowling capacity again and despite lack of match practice - he has only bowled nine overs in three matches in the ongoing ODI series against England - he is looking forward to another chance at an all-round effort.
"It all depends on the combinations, that will determine my role with the ball, but I am definitely willing and wanting to contribute with the ball," he said. "Yes, of late I haven't been having opportunities and I haven't bowled as well as I could have but that doesn't take away the fact that I can contribute. Hopefully when opportunities arise, I stand up and make it count."
Perhaps some of those opportunities will crop up in the remaining matches at home this summer. South Africa still have two ODIs and two T20s against England before three T20s against Australia and Duminy could use them to find some form. "It's just going back to what has worked for me and trying to be more consistent in my areas. I haven't had great success with the ball but there's still two ODIs and five T20s left," he said. And a major tournament in his favourite format to show that he has not gone anywhere at all.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent