The Luckiest Cricketer in South Africa

Duminy

Well left, JP.

In cricket, one name stands alone as a monument to unrealized potential and endless, frustrating failure: Graeme Hick.

The big Zimbabwean-turned-Englishman hit the English County scene like a club to the skull, and he seemed destined to become the square-jawed matinee idol of the international game. Season after season he put County attacks to the sword, eventually amassing 41,000 First Class runs including 136 centuries. But when the inevitable Test call-up came, the results were a crushing disappointment.

Sixteen years after the end of his international career, Hick remains the go-to reference when talk turns to underachieving players.

Which must be a great relief for a certain JP Duminy, AKA the Luckiest Cricketer in South Africa.

Duminy’s most recent Test innings, embarrassingly ended by an unchallenged straight ball in the second innings at Hamilton back in March, was his 72nd in Tests, and took his career run tally to 2086.

After 72 innings, Graeme Hick  had scored 2591 runs.

You read right. The game’s greatest underachiever had outscored Duminy by half a thousand runs at the same point in his career.

Of course, one can’t base on argument on just one example, so here are a couple more that show just how hopelessly out of his depth Duminy is.

Neil McKenzie was thrown a lifeline in 2008 after last playing a Test in 2004. He responded by scoring 1073 Test runs that year, more than Sachin Tendulkar, Michael Clarke and AB de Villiers. Three months into 2009 his Test career was over. (Duminy has never scored more than 419 runs in a year.) After 72 innings, McKenzie had scored 2599 runs to Duminy’s 2086.

Hansie Cronje revitalized South African cricket in the mid-1990s and played some mighty knocks in his time, but most pundits agree that he probably wouldn’t have had a Test career if he hadn’t been such a charismatic captain. He was weak against the short ball, and far too often made an attractive 35 where a dogged 135 was needed. But after 72 innings the often-fragile Cronje had managed 2352 runs.

Just behind Cronje, at 2290 after 72 innings, is Jacques Rudolph, who was facing howls of criticism at this point in his career and was a year away from being permanently dumped out of Test cricket.

Some Proteas didn’t even last 67 innings: they were axed by selectors who considered them to be a grave liability or simply not up to Test standard any more.

Remember Andrew Hudson? Hudders who, in the late 1990s, was considered almost supernaturally dismissal-prone and someone who needed to be ditched as soon as possible? Hudson played 63 Test innings in total and yet he still managed to score 2007 runs. After 63 innings, JP Hick, sorry, Duminy, had scored 1797: 210 runs fewer than a man who was considered a walking wicket and lucky to be selected.

More recently there was Alviro Petersen, eased out of the international game after 36 Tests and 64 innings. Petersen played some memorable knocks but nobody ever seriously believed that he was a Test blue-blood. And yet in his 64 innings he amassed 2093 runs. Duminy has played 8 innings more than that, and has yet to match that tally.

The bottom line, evidenced by comings and goings of players over the last 20 years, is that JP Duminy is not a Test batsman and is fantastically lucky to still have a career.

Yes, say his supporters, but that’s unfair: he’s not a Test batsman, he’s a Test allrounder. You can’t judge him by batting standards.

Well OK, but if you’re going to play that game then you need to measure him against other spinning allrounders, and the stats are still damning.

After 56 bowling innings, Duminy has bowled 441.3 overs and taken 42 wickets @ 37.6.

After the same number of bowling innings, Hick had bowled 497.3 overs, taken 22 at 57.09.

By comparison, Duminy looks pretty good.

That is, until you compare him to some spinning allrounders who can actually bowl.

For starters there’s Bangladeshi star, Shakib Al Hasan. After 56 bowling innings, Shakib had bowled 1382 overs and taken 122 wickets at 33.39. Oh, and after 72 batting innings? He’d scored 2554 runs at 38.31… #JustSaying.

Then there’s a certain R Ashwin. After 56 innings he’d bowled 1444.5 overs and taken 162 wickets at 26.64. So more of a specialist bowler, right? Well, Ashwin hasn’t batted as many times as Duminy – 69 innings to Duminy’s 72 – but after those 69 innings Ashwin has scored 1903 runs at 32.25. In short, Ashwin is more or less Duminy’s equal with the bat, and vastly superior with the ball.

The most telling figure here, though, is Duminy’s relatively tiny number of overs bowled.

Historically, South African allrounders have bowled about 20 overs per Test. Brian McMillan lumbered his way through 26 per Test, Andrew Hall and Lance Klusener contributed 23 per Test, and even Jacques Kallis, used ever more sparingly later in his career, averaged just over 20 per Test. Duminy’s contribution? 9.8 overs a Test.

We all know he can bowl and break partnerships, but the point is that he doesn‘t bowl. This is understandable given the potency of the SA pace attack, but the simple fact is that Duminy is being used as a part-time spinner, which means he’s being selected as a specialist batsman. And he simply isn’t that. Not by a long shot.

So next time you hear Graeme Hick’s name being used as a synonym for cricketing failure, suggest that it’s time for an update.

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17 comments

  1. When did Graeme Hick play i dont remember him so he obviously did not make an impression on me, or is it Greame Hick himself who wrote this article? i also see you keep on comparing Duminy with opening batsmen whilst he is batting in middle order with constant threat of tail ender batsmen falling around him. As a open bat you have ample time to play yourself in whilst the case not the same for middle order batsmen.Why dont you attack the idea that former cricketing players of yester year’s children getting preferencial treatment. Cook is no international standard batsmen but daddy made a name in RSA cricket so yes he got to be in the team. lets also talk about famous family names that get squeezed and kept in the side and this is for all sport sorts in RSA till they finally start to show a glimpse of talent. Yes talk about the Duplesis;Devilliers;Burgers;Louws;Bothas;this is just to name a few. look at rugby and all sports in RSA and you will find certain prominent family names coming up is this by accident certainly not but i would say tis by design and a corrupt inner circle looking after theyre own interests.

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    1. I’m sorry to be blunt but I’m afraid if you don’t know who Graeme Hick is then you know almost nothing about cricket and you’re not really in much of a position to present these (almost entirely delusional) opinions.

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  2. What is his average ? This will tell us more because a number 6 batsman is often ‘not out’ because he bats with the tailenders.

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  3. Graeme Hick was lousy and hopeless, cannot compare him to Duminy! Some Stupid English Snob wrote this? Who has no clue! What about Duminys fielding ability, how much runs does he save…then you want to compare Hick and Duminy, Seriously, you Guys have issues of your own!

    Spend the time writing about many other English Players who didn’t contribute to the game but was always selected?

    That’s why the English ‘feared’ to play Kevin Pietersen, All political? Explain his stats and why was he not selected? Forget about his banter, look at his Numbers?

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  4. I sometimes wonder whether there is any incentive for JP to perform because he knows the chances of him getting dropped from the side are practically zero.

    In a side that has consistently challenged to be world No.1, JP doesn’t look like a “world class” player. He’s talented- no doubt, and is great to watch when on song, but when he’s at the crease it’s not as if opposition fans feel- hey let’s not count our chickens yet- we’ve not won till this bloke is out. That feeling is definitely there with AB and QDK, and to a lesser extent, Faf, but not really with any one else in this squad (Elgar could get there, but needs to be more consistent)

    When the team REALLY, REALLY needs him, I’ve never seen JP step up. Not sure if it’s a mental issue or something. Here are two recent examples

    Example 1- Johannesburg 2013 v India (second innings). Faf 134, AB 103, JP 5.

    Example 2- Delhi 2015 v India (second innings), Hash (25 from 244), AB (43 from 297), Faf (10 off 97), JP (0 off 12)

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