Private jet at midnight, anyone?

Many cricketers go through their entire careers failing to understand one very plain and straightforward fact. Nine out of ten supporters will form an opinion about that player, his personality and character, from what they see on the field. It will be modified and and adapted by what they read in newspapers, hear in radio interviews and see in television interviews, but for most of their playing careers a cricketer will be judged – as a person – by what he does with bat and ball.

Unless, of course, they understand the value of the media and its power to portray them as they want to be portrayed – hopefully as they really are because ‘images’ rarely survive the prolonged glare of the real world. Many cricketers feel let down after being criticised without a background of information. He may have bowled badly with a broken toe which nobody knew about, or batted too slowly following a sleepless night of gastro and fever, but that information is rarely available or shared with the media or the public.

Players are understandably cautious and wary of ‘making excuses’ and, sometimes, they are under instruction from their coach, captain or chief executive not to speak to the media. The problem with that, of course, is that the story inevitably ‘gets out’. Or rather, bits of it do which often leaves the player in an even worse situation than when he was simply accused of bowling ‘crap’ or batting ‘rubbish’.

When a player succeeds (rather than fails) in adversity, of course, the story becomes a happy story and everybody gets to hear about it. Which is why I’m so surprised that J-P Duminy’s performance in the pulsating Standard Bank Pro20 semi final, 3rd leg at Kingsmead on Wednesday hasn’t received more attention.

The NBT (“next big thing”) left hander made an unbeaten half century to guide the Cobras to their almost defendable total of 148-4 but, to be truthful, he never really looked on top of his game. It was a fine, gutsy, street-fighting effort, but everybody knows how fluent Duminy can be. Maybe it had something to do with not arriving in Durban until 2.00am and not getting to bed until 3.30am!

Duminy’s heroics in Australia persuaded several sponsors to seek endorsment contracts with the modest 24-year-old and, amongst several commitments he agreed to via his management team, was a film shoot for Pepsi. As far as I can ascertain, permission was sought – and received – from CSA administration, Proteas management and the Cobras for the two-day shoot, which also included Graeme Smith, to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

When CSA re-arranged the Pro20 semi finals and placed the 3rd leg on Wednesday, the shoot had to be congested into a single day, Tuesday. Meanwhile, Cobras coach, Shukri Conrad, had changed his mind about releasing the players and insisted they fly with the rest of the team to Durban at 7.10pm on Tuesday. My friend at Pepsi informs me that, had Duminy and Smith cancelled their obligation, they (or their managers) would have been liable for costs of close to R2 million.

So they completed the job at around 11.00pm, drove to Cape Town airport, boarded a private plane just after midnight and finally hit the sack just a couple of hours before the sun came up in Durban.

In the circumstances, it seems quite appropriate – yet again this season – to say ‘well batted, J-P.’

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, or fed up with commercial airlines, it’ll cost you between R60,000 about R80,000 to hire your own plane from Cape Town to Durban. That’s with a propeller. Duminy and Smith aren’t quite at private jet status, yet. Give it a couple of seasons of IPL, however…

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