Leading Edge: Fancy buying Domingo a drink?

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Johannesburg

RUSSELL Domingo walks into a bar. Everybody buys him a drink. At least, that was the case when he was coaching the Warriors. And when he was Gary Kirsten’s assistant with the SA team.

In those now far off days, Domingo could be trusted because he wasn’t being trusted with much. Who besides Eastern Capers care whether the Warriors win or lose? Whoever the assistant coach is, he can’t do much damage with a genius like Kirsten in control.

These days, Domingo only walks into a bar as the butt of cruel jokes. Part of this reaction is a social ill that seems endemic to South Africans.

In the same way that Jacob Zuma can’t hold a candle to Thabo Mbeki, Mbeki couldn’t possibly be as good a president as Nelson Mandela.

The problem with that theory is that, once, Mandela was same kind of hothead as Julius Malema.

Full disclosure: I like Russell Domingo. He wears his mood on his face and he talks unambiguous Eastern Cape English. When he is pissed off, you know it before he tells you – which he will, anyway, in the flattest of vowels.

Cricket’s tracksuits are only marginally less worthy of anyone’s trust than its suits, but Domingo is as close as they get to damn straight.

This can lead the faint of argument to conclude that Domingo is a bully who hides his opinion behind thickets of stats, which he throws at his doubters as established fact.

What they won’t tell you is that they would doubt him whatever he says or does. He didn’t play first-class cricket, you see, never mind test cricket …

Funny how Graham Ford gets the respect he deserves as a coach despite a playing record of seven first-class matches, all of them for Natal B.

And that despite the fact that Ford, like every other SA coach besides Domingo, never guided a SA team to victory in a World Cup knockout match, or won a one-day series in India. No-one except Mike Procter can, like Domingo, say they won a test series with SA in Sri Lanka.

Those are facts, not stats. But you can be sure that when Ford and Procter – excellent coaches both – walk into a bar, people still buy them drinks.

Domingo’s problem is the same problem suits like Percy Sonn had and Norman Arendse still has. They are or were able to argue successfully that Zuma is a better president than Mandela, just as they can or could convince people that leopards have stripes and zebras spots.

This is the sharpest kind of double-edged sword. When people like these are correct, everybody benefits. When they are wrong, everybody suffers. They are the most forceful guys in the room, and they aren’t afraid to be what they are.

Domingo will make mistakes. He will also get things right. The responsibility of knowing the difference is his. The responsibility of judging him fairly is ours.

Hey, Russell, fancy a drink?

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