Anybody who was in the audience recently at any number of schools ranging from Paarl Boys High to Timourhall Primary would have sat attentively and listened with great interest to the eloquent speaker up on stage.
The content would have been engaging, and a genuine connection would have enveloped.
Not too bad for a kid that was once declined acceptance to one of the ivy league schools in the leafy southern suburbs of Cape Town for being “too shy”.
JP Duminy, of course, is no longer a kid. In fact, he has two beautiful daughters of his own now along with a doting wife Sue.
He also is the heartbeat of the JP21 Foundation – formerly the JP21 Project – that creates the opportunity for over 40 primary schools in the Mitchells Plain area to play the game of cricket.
“For a long time playing cricket was my entire life. It was absolutely everything. My happiness was dependent on how I performed on the cricket field,” Duminy told Independent Media this week.
“Until one day Shukri Conrad sat me down. He has known me since I was a laaitie. ‘Cricket is not your life. It is only a part of your life’. It really hit home. I started enjoying my cricket much more ever since then because it put things into perspective for me.”
Duminy has certainly had plenty of time to take stock over the last few months. After an excellent tour of Sri Lanka last year where he played with all the freedom and panache that entranced the public all those years ago to earn the Man of the Series award, Duminy was struck down with a shoulder injury that required surgery.
It forced him out of the Mzansi Super League and the Pakistan Super League in addition to all the national team commitments with the Proteas. Considering Duminy plays only white-ball cricket now after retiring from Tests in 2016, there were serious questions floating around if the latest setback would see the 34-year-old – he will be 35 in April – ride off into the sunset for good.
It was not long ago that he had worked his way back from a severe knee injury and he previously ruptured his Achilles too. Would he have the motivation to come back from yet another major injury?
“The benefit that I have had is that I have always had good people around me supporting me. This is definitely a journey that you can’t walk alone. Yes, there are some dark times when you doubt yourself. Anxious thoughts the fear and worries that whether you will be as good as you were. Whether the standard of play that you deliver will still be up there with the best,” Duminy said.
“Those fears are always going to be there though. But it is important that you surround yourself with the right people. And also to encourage yourself. Fortunately I have had that from my family, the Cobras and the national team, and of course, Shane Jabaar (Cobras physio). He is the man that has put me through my paces.”
While Duminy has been hitting the treadmill with gusto and moulding young minds, his mates at the Proteas have been busy preparing for another shot at World Cup immortality later this year in England. And although they managed to tame a strong Pakistan team in the decider at Newlands to take the series honours 3-2, there just seemed to be something missing.
It is quite ironic that in Duminy’s absence his true value is being recognised. His career numbers may not always agree, but the Proteas rely heavily on the former Plumstead High School product. He is considered the ultimate team man that is “nice” enough to do the “ugly” work solely for the team’s benefit.
Every selector also breathes a sigh of relief when Duminy is available for he adds a great deal of balance to the starting XI through his composure in the middle-order along with his ability to send down valuable overs during the middle period of the innings.
Duminy’s return to competitive cricket is scheduled for the Cape Cobras’ second round of Momentum One-Day Cup games within a fortnight. From there on, the build-up will all be geared towards being ready for the World Cup opener against the hosts at The Oval on May 30.
Having experienced the trauma of two World Cup heartbreaks already in 2011 and especially 2015, Duminy may be excused for not exactly wanting to rush back just yet. However, the veteran believes the World Cup should not be viewed as a poisoned chalice.
“Of course everybody remembers the semi-final. And yes it was very disappointing, but it was also one of the greatest ODIs ever, which we played a massive part in,” Duminy said.
“But there are some good memories too. We played really good cricket in that World Cup. AB’s innings in Sydney was breathtaking. We won a knockout game for the first time (Duminy took a hat-trick in the World Cup quarter-final). Those are all great memories.”
But can the “Class of 2019” go all the way?
“There is so much talent in South African cricket. If I am selected, we will go there with the mindset to enjoy the experience. Playing in a World Cup is wonderful thing,” he said.
“There is also greater maturity within the group now. We have grown so much. It is important that we stay focused on the processes and not look too far ahead at the outcome.”
If South Africa do indeed enjoy a summer of a lifetime in England later this year and bring joy to the millions back home, it could just be a case of when the “nice guy” actually came first.