TELFORD VICE, Johannesburg
RUSSELL Domingo sat next to Hashim Amla when he announced his resignation as SA’s captain at Newlands last week, so when Domingo darkened the doorway for a press conference at the Wanderers on Monday the obvious question wasn’t long in coming.
“What? Are you also resigning?”
No. But Domingo did bring important news from Cape Town, where Dale Steyn was having his shoulder scanned.
“I think Dale’s out of the next test match (in Johannesburg, starting on Thursday) … speaking to our physio he’s definitely out of the next test match,” Domingo said.
Steyn has missed five of SA’s last seven tests with groin and shoulder problems, which have limited his bowling in the other two matches to a total of 40 overs in which he has taken 4/110.
In the seven tests he played between March 2014 and January last year, his figures were 217.2-56-667-35.
That illustrates just how much Steyn means to SA’s cause, and how much they have missed him – they have lost four of their last seven tests and drawn the rest. So, is Steyn, at 32, on his way out?
“I don’t think it’s the end of Dale Steyn’s career at all,” Domingo said. “All players are going to experience some sort of niggles at some stage. He’s just had a few of them of late. But he’s a great athlete, he’s as fit as anybody could be. These things happen. He’s just going through that phase of his career at the moment. I’m sure he’ll get through it.”
Press conferences are held primarily to enable the suits and tracksuits to control the message, and Domingo was trying hard: “It’s an opportunity for someone else to make a mark for themselves and hopefully strive to be as good as Dale Steyn was …”
Was? As in past tense?
“… And is!”
Funny thing about toothpaste: once it’s out of the tube there’s no getting it back inside.
Also, with Chris Morris, Kyle Abbott and Hardus Viljoen all in the squad, you would be forgiven for thinking SA were pre-prepared for Steyn’s increasing fragility.
SA are becoming unaccustomed to seeing him steam in, but, for the first time in 15 tests going back to the tour to Sri Lanka in July 2014, they will not be captained by Amla.
Instead, AB de Villiers will be the bloke in the green blazer at the toss on Thursday.
“AB is a totally different type of leader,” Domingo said. “He’s more of a spontaneous, go-by-your-gut type of leader. Hashim might be more methodical and more thoughtful. AB is very much spur-of-the-moment. He plans a lot but does things instinctively.”
Besides, SA’s fightback to draw the Newlands test – not least because of Amla’s double century – has taken the edge off what might have been an ominously uncertain few days.
“Sometimes change is good,” Domingo said. “Hashim’s done a great job, but it might just be the change that can trigger something, you never know.
“We’re playing on a wicket that’s going to offer pace and bounce, and we haven’t had that for six or seven test matches. That might be the thing that triggers it.”
Whatever that trigger is, SA – who have now gone eight tests without victory, a post-isolation record – need to squeeze it already.
But, as England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow pointed out, “Yeah, OK, you could say (SA) have the momentum (after Cape Town), but we’re 1-0 up in the series. We’re in the box seat.”
Box seats. Triggers. Toothpaste. Fragile fast bowlers. Captains resigned and instinctive. And they say test cricket is boring.