Cape Town – South Africa’s national coach Russell Domingo
must be looking forward to the relative “sanctuary” of limited-overs cricket
Inevitably, he has come under as much fire as anybody else
for the Proteas’ costly, swelling sequence of Test matches without a win – it
will become 10 if they fail to prevail in the dead-rubber final Test against
England starting at SuperSport Park on Friday.
As things stand, Domingo’s Test win percentage record in
charge of SA has receded to 31.8% ... of the 22 Tests played in his tenure, ahead
of the Centurion clash which closes out our summer in that format, they have
won only seven, drawn seven and surrendered eight.
That is a desperately poor figure for a team who, until very
recently, were proud holders of the ICC Test Championship mace but now run the
risk of sinking to near mid-table status.
Still, there are mitigating factors that cannot be ignored
over the especially problematic last few months: first there was a dubious
wisdom – something out of his control – of scheduling a two-Test series in
Bangladesh’s often fierce rainy season.
The fact that there was no play at all on six days of the
intended 10 quite obviously was a massive impediment to the Proteas downing the
minnows; both games duly ended in stalemate.
Then there is also, in the current series, the almost
complete absence of main strike bowlers Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander (the
latter hasn’t started a single Test) to consider – they are players of such
proven quality that the present situation of England sitting on an unassailable
2-0 lead might have looked vastly different had they been available to bolster
a home outfit already in a rebuilding mode and desperately requiring
Domingo’s period in charge – he became SA coach in mid-2013,
succeeding the resigned Gary Kirsten – was looking rather more promising from a
Test point of view in his early phase, which included a rare away series
triumph against Sri Lanka, so often previously tormentors of the Proteas in
their own Subcontinent backyard.
But his five-day record has worsened considerably in the
past several months, which is a justifiable cause for concern.
Nevertheless, his critics have considerably less ammunition
to fire at him in limited-overs terms, where he sits at very close to 60% win
rates in both the ODI and Twenty20 arenas with the Proteas.
Frankly, this environment has always been his forte, if you
like: the way he turned the reasonably unfashionable Warriors into a one-day
force was a powerful motivation for his eventual elevation to the national hot
During his tenure at the franchise, they won both domestic
limited-overs competitions in the 2009/10 season, and were runners-up in the
now defunct, multinational T20 Champions League in 2010.
In many ways, it could be argued, Domingo has favourably
transferred that nous into the international fray.
There have been bumps along the way in ODIs – almost every
team has them in a packed, fatiguing itinerary – but the Proteas appear to be
building a promising head of steam of late: their last two series have seen a
home win against dangerous New Zealand (2-1) and exemplary, first-time 3-2
bilateral triumph in the uniquely harsh landscape of India.
Domingo also came as close as any predecessor to delivering
an elusive World Cup in early 2015, where South Africa bowed out in a
desperately tense semi-final to co-hosts New Zealand after the Philander/Abbott
“political” storm caused damaging disturbance to the Proteas’ focus in the
That was again something presumably beyond Domingo’s hands
to a good extent.
Meanwhile at T20 level, South Africa appear to be getting
their team balance right – a big bugbear at Test level, post-Kallis – and have
not lost a bilateral series in their last three, including wins over Bangladesh
and India on their own terrain.
This stands the Proteas in fairly good stead for the looming
next ICC World Twenty20 tournament in India in March.
Domingo earned a contract extension from Cricket South
Africa, in the middle of last year, to April 30 2017, and I suspect his post
may only become seriously imperilled ahead of that if the Proteas also have a
rough time of it from England in the limited-overs phase of their safari
shortly and then fare badly at the global get-together.
In a few days’ time, the coach gets back for a quite protracted
period into modes of the game he is most renowned for doing well at.
It is if the wheels come off there as well that his future
in the berth will really look tenuous ...
Here is Domingo’s
full, up-to-date record for SA in the three formats:
Tests: Played 22,
won seven, drew seven, lost eight (win percentage 31.8)
internationals: Played 59, won 35, lost 22, two no-results (win percentage
internationals (two additional, scheduled matches were abandoned without starting):
Played 26, won 15, lost 11 (win percentage 57.6).
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