JP fitness adds to changing game

Cricket South Africa has a well-stocked media and public relations department full of highly qualified people who realise that the supply of reliable and truthful information is a primary requirement in establishing trust between themselves and the media – and ultimately, of course, the millions of people who follow the game.

After many years of obtuse, confusing and often very little information, CSA has now become quite good at sharing information. Quite good. It could be better. But sometimes the information emanates from Wanderers Headquarters so quickly and freely that you have to wonder how much thought has actually gone into its compilation.

Last week a comprehensive list of injury updates arrived in journalists’ inboxes detailing the ailment status of AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Morne Morkel and various others – including JP Duminy. It stated that JP’s scheduled return to action would be the first test against the West Indies at Centurion on December 17.

There was no mention of games before that. He would, subject to attaining fitness, slot straight back into the Test XI.

When asked whether Duminy would be required to display his fitness (and form) in match conditions before the first test, selection convenor Andrew Hudson said: “We will discuss this but I do not think ‘match practice’ is that much of a concern. He has played lots of cricket in recent weeks and should be ready to play”.

The game is moving and changing, impossibly fast. So quickly, in fact, that it is virtually impossible to keep up with. Even for those involved at its very heart.

For Hudson’s entire playing career the concept of returning to first-class action, never mind test cricket, without proving one’s fitness would have been impossible. Yet he said: “It’s not as though JP would be coming off a two-month break.”

He would. That’s exactly what he will have had. Two months break. He was playing cricket right up until his injury, but he’s still had two months ‘off’ during his rehab.

Maybe that’s the way it is now – and will be forever after. Gary Kirsten slayed the notion of ‘warm-up’ games on the 2012 tour of England, happy to make do with a couple of low-key, modest exhibitions against county teams featuring 13 players and lacking status of any kind, never the first-class variety.

His view was that replicating the intensity of test cricket was impossible, so why bother? Rather just hit balls in the middle and have fielders rather than nets to collect them.

It all makes sense on one level. The problem, of course, is the widening gap between the national squad and the ‘next best’.

If Duminy is seen as so crucial to the national team that he could return after two months on the sidelines, what message is that sending out to the players trying their best to make a breakthrough at the highest level? It doesn’t matter what they do – the incumbents are there, through thick and thin, injury and fitness, form and the lack of.

Nobody is to blame. The situation is a product of the amount of cricket being played. Of course, there is far, far too much cricket being played. But administrators never accept responsibility – so nobody is to blame. Right?

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