TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
RUSSELL Domingo’s bum was barely on seat at a press conference in Durban on Tuesday when the elephant in the room cleared its throat.
What had SA cancelled training a day before the series-deciding one-day international against New Zealand at Kingsmead on Wednesday?
“We’ve got a few niggles and I don’t think one practice session is going to make too much of a difference,” Domingo said with the smile of man who knew that bouncer was coming his way.
“We just feel it might be a good day to connect as a team and doing something other than cricket. So we will be spending time together. It won’t be on the cricket field, it will be somewhere else.”
Domingo finished his answer with a question of his own: “Is that OK?”
It was not. Where would the SA squad be if not on the training ground ironing out the kinks that helped New Zealand level the series with an eight-wicket win in Potchefstroom on Sunday?
“That’s for the team’s information,” Domingo said tersely.
At least two of those kinks would not be resolved by any amount of practice – JP Duminy’s absence due to the arrival of his daughter and the knee injury that has ruled out Faf du Plessis.
“It’s important to have two or three solid batsmen in our top four, guys who score at a certain strike rate,” Domingo said. “Hashim (Amla) is one of those guys. Faf is the other guy we look to to hold the innings together.
“Rilee (Rossouw) and Hashim played superbly in (Centurion, where SA won the first ODI by 20 runs) and no-one hung around long enough after Hashim got out early in Potchefstroom.
“We need to have someone who is willing to graft through 40 overs. When you only have Hashim who does that consistently it becomes a problem. You’ve got to find the balance between being overly attacking and too defensive. Hashim and Faf have that balance, some of the younger players need to find it.”
What with Morne Morkel also about to become a father and therefore out of the equation and AB de Villiers freshly returned from daddy duty, SA’s dressingroom might feel more like a creche.
And it doesn’t help that SA will be trying on Wednesday to take the edge off the bad memory of their tour to Bangladesh, where they lost a one-day series for the first time last month and then saw six of 10 days of test cricket lost to rain.
“It’s been a bit disjointed, having three one-dayers (in Bangladesh) then two test matches rained off and a couple of T20s (in a shared series against New Zealand), now three one-dayers again, and there’ve been a few babies born and chopping and changing with non-availability.
“We haven’t got that continuity yet, we haven’t found that recipe yet. New Zealand have just come off nice tours in England and Zimbabwe where they played together as a unit. We haven’t had that yet since the World Cup.”
Translation: stability can’t be gained in the nets. Damn straight – the XI that played in Potch on Sunday shows six changes from the one that did duty in the first ODI against Bangladesh not quite seven weeks ago.
Whichever way you spin it, that’s no day at the beach.