Proteas didn’t need bag-shake

2013-05-20 14:55
Russell Domingo (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - For the moment at least, the pretty novel “Gary Kirsten way” of doing things for the national cricket team deserves an extension ... perhaps that is exactly why disciple Russell Domingo was installed with such startling rapidity as his replacement.

Questionable method, I think, has been engaged by Cricket South Africa in the process (some might cynically ask: what process?), although it has possibly yielded the right result anyway with Eastern Cape-hailing Domingo’s ascent from assistant to the top coaching post.

The Proteas are a big enough brand - undisputed No 1 in Test cricket, say no more - to have warranted an altogether more thorough welcoming of CVs for the job, which is the customary modern way and usually ensures fairness and accountability.

Sometimes, after all, you just don’t know what quality of coaching expertise may lurk out there until you have gone fishing for it or at the very least checked the net to see what whopper you might have unknowingly caught.

Just off the top of my head, I would have been gratified, for instance, if as smart a cricketing brain and competent man-manager as Australian Tom Moody had expressed some interest; in their maiden Indian Premier League campaign, he has guided Sunrisers Hyderabad to the knockout stage.

At 47, the sometimes television commentator still has useful “youth” on his side and a wealth of personal experience of top-level one-day cricket, especially, through his 76 caps for the Australia of a stronger era (1987 to 1999) than at present.

A participant in three World Cups and two finals (the last one in 1999 a winning one at Lord’s against Pakistan) he might have had some firm ideas, and ones coming from refreshingly independent terrain, on how to get the hitherto jinxed Proteas past the post in that particular competition.

But the merits of Moody and others amount to water under the bridge now - I wonder if any other domestic coaches were just a little nose-out-of-joint? - considering CSA’s panther-like pounce for the services of Domingo.

Why, even Domingo may have been caught up in the whirlwind of it all: he admitted at his first media opportunities since elevation that the parameters of his employment had not been settled yet.

It is not the most glamorous in the history of appointments to international-level coaching posts, but there is a good case for saying that in that very fact it is a suitable horse for the current Proteas course.

There have been occasions in the post-isolation past when the SA job has called for a genuine bag-shaker ... somebody like Ray Jennings is a slightly extreme example, perhaps, but his disciplinarian approach ruffled feathers when they arguably needed to be.

But with Kirsten’s philosophy - so much of it geared around player empowerment and contentedness in their environment, rather than how best to execute the pull - effectively cut short in its budding prime with the Proteas, a similar approach for the next couple of years doesn’t seem a regressive step at all.

Ordinarily, you would like to see a new coach quickly infuse fresh ideas and formulas - and hopefully there will be a few from Domingo as he seeks to avoid any excessive “comfort zone” peril - but not fixing something that ain’t broke can also be a desirable avenue for success, at least until signs of sell-by date being approached are spotted.

In that context, I have liked the new appointee’s avoidance of big, brash statements of intent, because as much as he will want to put some sort of personal stamp on things, there is probably no need at present for a dramatic change either in philosophy or personnel by the Proteas.

It would make sense for Domingo to be initially, officially engaged up to and including the next World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in February 2015, just under two years away.

If that is the case, his itinerary preceding it ought to be relatively plain sailing, especially as far as his No 1-ranked Test charges are concerned.

That comforting situation is influenced in no small measure by the decision, taken some time before his appointment, to postpone a scheduled 2013 Test series in Sri Lanka - where the Proteas have won only once, in 1993 - to the middle of
2015, which will be much deeper into his tenure if, indeed, he is still in the post.

South Africa also play India in Tests at home next summer, where conditions will favour them far more strongly than they would if visiting the slow, turning tracks of the Subcontinent: India should be particularly vulnerable to the Proteas’
pace-geared attack this time given that various seasoned batsmen like Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman will no longer be in the
touring mix.

Domingo then has a tantalising chance to achieve something no other post-isolation SA coach has managed: overdue victory in a home Test series against an Australian side still in the throes of transition and unusual levels of self-doubt and some turmoil.

The next 20 months or so also conveniently skirt away Test series Down Under (keep in mind that the Proteas were largely outplayed in two drawn Tests there last season before turning on the style in the decisive third at Perth) and the still very competitive England either home or away.

Yes, there are various, potentially perilous limited-overs series to negotiate, although bilateral ones don’t carry massive gravitas in the endlessly packed international itinerary: coaches tend to be judged far more on performance in ICC tournaments, and Domingo’s first will be the lesser-weighted World Twenty20 in Bangladesh next year.

He remains right-hand man to the departing Kirsten for the Champions Trophy in England and Wales next month, which allows what should be a fairly seamless, gradual changing of the guard to take place.

A hunch also tells me the liberated Kirsten will not be too far away as a source of ongoing aid, if desired.

By my estimation, the Proteas are going to have to stuff things up unexpectedly badly in the short- to medium-term for Domingo to encounter swollen seas soon after grabbing the tiller ...

The Domingo Diary (to World Cup 2015):

July 2013: Sri Lanka away (ODIs, T20s only)
October 2013: Pakistan away (neutral UAE, 2 Tests plus ODIs, T20s)
December 2013: India home (3 Tests plus ODIs, T20s)

February 2014: Australia home (3 Tests plus T20s)
April 2014: ICC World Twenty20, Bangladesh
July 2014: Zimbabwe away (2 Tests plus ODIs, T20s)
November 2014: Australia away (ODIs, T20s only)
December 2014: West Indies home (3 Tests plus ODIs, T20s)

February 2015: ICC World Cup, Australia & NZ

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  russell domingo  |  cricket

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