JP Duminy is on a mission to empower youth through cricket. We chatted to him about his love of the game, his involvement in the JP21 Foundation, and his decision to serve Christ. By Tamsyn Cornelius
JP Duminy stands tall in front of the wicket, proudly kitted in green and gold and always armed with a powerful swing, ready to hit those amazing cover drives we all know and love in the game of cricket.
Off the pitch, however, he is much more than a South African cricketing hero. He is happily married to blogger and travel editor wife, Sue, for over six years now, and a proud dad to Isabella Hannah, aged two. More importantly, he is a follower of Christ with a heart to share a message of hope through cricket in some of Cape Town’s most dangerous communities.
“Cricket has always been my first love in terms of me playing sport,” JP tells us. “When cricket came along, everything else got put to the wayside!” he laughs. “In fact, my dad was the one who always believed that I would play for South Africa someday.”
With a natural flair for the game and lots of hard work, JP quickly gained public attention and by the age of 17, he scored his first contract and made his debut on the field for Western Province during his matric year. There was no looking back!
With a dream in his heart, and a bat in his hand, JP admits that there wasn’t really anything else that he wanted to do with his life. “It’s just always been cricket!”
Now at the age of 33, JP has had a remarkable sporting career – achieving local and international success in cricket, in ways that many aspiring sportsmen can only dream about.
One of his most prized accomplishments was becoming South Africa’s leading T20 run-scorer in 2013, as well as the first South African cricketer to amass 1500 runs in the format. Today he is considered one the best T20 batsmen in the world.
Recently retired from test and first-class cricket, JP is now focused on attaining limited-overs cricket success for South Africa and the WSB Cape Cobras. He is also happy to be back with the Mumbai Indians in this season’s Indian Premier League (IPL).
“I have thoroughly enjoyed the privilege and opportunity to represent my country in 46 Tests and the WSB Cape Cobras in 108 first-class matches over the past 16 years,” he told the media during a press statement. “It is an experience that cannot be replaced and one I will always cherish.”
Having grown up within a Catholic home, JP tells us that faith had somehow featured in his formative years, but that it was only as an adult that he came to the realisation that he needed a personal relationship with Christ.
“In 2013, in Sri Lanka, I accepted Christ in my life,” he explains. “We were touring Sri Lanka and myself, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and David Miller started a little Bible study together in the national team. One of the sessions was called ‘Salvation’ and at the end of the chapter it asked you the question of whether you are willing to commit yourself to God. On that night all four of us committed our lives to Him.”
This was no trivial decision – on the contrary, it was one that changed JP’s life completely. Together with his wife, Sue, JP then made a public declaration of his faith through baptism. “It has been an amazing journey thus far and I am learning so much every day,” he adds.
A new perspective
In 2015, the couple welcomed their first child, Isabella Hannah, into the world. As a dad to a toddler, JP’s days are even busier than before, but he is now more aware than ever of the impact his decision to serve Christ has had on his family.
“I definitely want to see my daughter grow up with faith in Christ and understand that she is loved by her Heavenly Father and that she is able to have a personal relationship with Him already, from a very young age,” he explains.
“I want her to have a good understanding of where the source of all life comes from. We serve Christ together as a family in our home and we try to instil godly principles.”
We are reminded of Joshua’s declaration in the Bible when he proclaimed: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” (Joshua 24:15).
The JP21 Project
Apart from his sterling cricketing career and dynamic family life, JP is also big on giving back and making an impact in the community.
The JP21 project was started in 2014 with a sincere commitment to re-igniting the passion and enthusiasm for the game of cricket in underprivileged communities and schools, particularly in the Western Cape areas of Mitchell’s Plain and Strandfontein.
“This is where I grew up,” JP explains, “And it is here where cricket had basically died among the youth. Out of the 54 schools in the area, when we started the project, only four were playing cricket.”
The JP21 Project therefore created a platform for a junior cricket league amongst the schools of the area. “We saw a gap to revive the sport and also give kids another opportunity to play the game and get away from the negative influences in the community such as gangsterism, alcohol and drug abuse, which are so widespread in these areas,” JP adds.
The vision is to promote a positive and healthy lifestyle while at the same time allowing learners to have fun, all while playing cricket.
“In three years, we have added 36 schools playing hardball cricket and 38 schools playing mini cricket to the project, which is a big accomplishment in itself, but the aim is obviously to get everyone involved,” he continues. At the core, it is really all about a willingness to serve the communities and the learners from these areas.
In addition, the project strives to identify and develop the talent and skills of learners and provide a specialised programme for this to take place. It’s about recognising the potential of young cricketers, who otherwise, would never have experienced the game or even been aware of their own talent on the field.
“South Africa is proud to be a sporting nation, and we at the JP21 Project hope we can work with and assist organizations like Cricket South Africa and the Western Cape Cricket Association in their development programmes.”
Making a mark
JP’s life is a testament to what hard work and faith in God can accomplish. “The motto I often go by is ‘Best Effort’. You see, you can never really control your outcome in life, but you can control your effort, your enthusiasm, your desire in whatever you do. My encouragement to others is always to try and give your best effort, no matter what. If you can do that, you give yourself the best chance of achieving whatever goals you set for yourself.”
“You can apply this to any area of your life, whether business, sport or family… if you continue to give your best effort, then you are definitely taking a step in the right direction.”
With the 2019 Cricket World Cup on the horizons, JP’s aim is to remain focussed. “From a cricketing point of view, my goal is to sustain my international cricketing career over this next season. It’s been a bit of a bumpy 2017 and the goal for 2018 is to try and revive it a little bit. But also, I am not trying to put too much pressure on myself,” he adds.
“Where the Lord takes me, I will follow, and where He leads, I just need to be comfortable and keen to see what He is wanting to use me for. I think that is the most important thing. I have been privileged to play in different teams around the world, and if I can have an influence on the people I am surrounded by, then I am actually playing my small part in His purpose.”
To learn more about the JP21Project visit www.jp21foundation.org.
This article featured as the cover story in the April 2018 issue of The Christian Lifestyle Magazine.
*Photography by Shireen Louw.