TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
IF Russell Domingo is a big enough fish to swim in the largest pond of all, the elephant who is Gary Kirsten needs to leave the room.
Forgive the tangled zoology, but if we are to know how good – or not – Domingo can be as SA’s coach then he needs to stop being measured against Kirsten and his achievement of taking SA to the top of the rankings.
It’s time Domingo stepped out of Kirsten’s shadow and stamped his own authority on the team. But what might that be?
Not so fast, former Warriors allrounder Justin Kreusch said on Friday.
“They were always going to be big shoes to fill,” Kreusch said. “But I don’t think people understand how a changeroom works.
“You can’t lose players like Makhaya Ntini, Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher and expect to perform at the same level.
“When you’re on top of the test and the one-day rankings, there’s only one way you can go. And how long can you stay on top?”
Kreusch knows first-hand what kind of coach Domingo is from the days they shared a dressingroom, including in 2009-10 – when the Warriors won the one-day and T20 competitions.
“Russell’s biggest skill as a coach is his ability to communicate with the players, and he’s not scared to get outside help if he doesn’t have all the answers,” Kreusch said.
That will ring bells with people wondering why SA, under Domingo, do not have a batting coach. But only if they choose to ignore what he said after the Centurion test against England last month – that the process of trying to fill the vacancy is into its second year.
If they haven’t already, and at the risk of earning a mention in the book Domingo says he’s going to write, the one titled, “They think we’re stupid”, perhaps someone should call Colin Ingram.
In 2009-10 Ingram was the leading runscorer in both the one-day and the T20 competitions, while Kreusch was in the top five in the 40-over event – in which Rusty Theron and Lonwabo Tsotsobe led the wicket-takers. Ntini and Theron were the top scalpers in the T20s stuff.
Compare that with a player of the calibre of Hashim Amla averaging 22.81 in his 12 test innings in 2015 – his overall average is 51.45 – Faf du Plessis passing 50 just once and recording three ducks in his dozen trips to the crease last year, Dale Steyn missing five of SA’s last seven tests through injuries and Vernon Philander being on crutches for seven tests, and you can see where this is going.
If you can’t, here’s Kreusch reciting from sport’s big book of truisms: “When things are going well, the players get the credit; when things are kak, the coach gets the blame.”
Indeed. Which is why, if you didn’t know SA had won the Centurion test, Domingo wasn’t about to give away any hint of that happy news at the press conference that followed.
He huffed, he puffed, he blew down the hope inherent in the fact that, after a year of failure and mediocrity, his team had finished on the sunnier side of the equation.
Yes, the match did not matter because England had won the series at the Wanderers. No, one win can’t change much. But still, coach, could you crack a smile already?
Not that Domingo was given much opportunity to do so, what with the gathered press asking whether “the penny had dropped” about picking a specialist opener in the wake of Stephen Cook’s belated selection and his century on debut, and what he thought about wild ideas like, say, using a batting coach.
So, how good could Domingo be as SA’s coach?
“He’s proved his worth as a first-class coach with the Warriors, I enjoy the way he sets up his processes, and he’s one of those guys who never stops talking about cricket. He is not coming here to grow up as a coach; I believe he can add real value to the team.”
That was the elephant on the fish in July 2011, when the latter was appointed the former’s assistant with SA.
Thanks Gary. When you leave the room, please take your shadow with you.