SA’s problems are bigger than Domingo

TMG Digital


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

RUSSELL Domingo remains SA’s coach, for now. That’s the short answer to the hail of harsh questions aimed at him in the wake of his team’s poor performance in the triseries in the Caribbean.

SA won only two of their five completed matches and failed to reach the final in Barbados on Sunday, when Australia beat West Indies by 58 runs.

The clue that Domingo would not be fired was the absence from a press conference at OR Tambo International on Wednesday of Cricket SA (CSA) chief executive Haroon Lorgat, who is with his fellow suits at the International Cricket Council annual conference in Edinburgh.

But would Domingo resign?

“I’ve got to sit down with my management team and the board members and the CEO and the guys who make those decisions and plan the way forward,” Domingo told reporters.

“I’ve got 10 months left on my contract and the last six months haven’t gone according to plan. I am not a guy who wants to give up or quit so I need to discuss what their thoughts are. I’ve got a few days at home now to just mull over things and see where things are going.

“I feel that the management team we’ve got in place have ticked a lot of boxes and provided the players with as much support as we can.

“We’re still very motivated as a management team to do well. We feel we can take the team forward. That decision doesn’t always lie with us but that’s the way it is.”

Coaches don’t win or lose matches. Players do. Did Domingo feel let down?

“I’m not a coach who is going to sit here and blame the players for lack of performance,” he said. “Coaches have to front up and take the brunt of it when performances are not there.

“I don’t feel let down by players; I feel let down by performances. The results haven’t been as good as what we’ve wanted. I feel the players gave it as much as they possibly could.”

So what went wrong? In a word, scheduling.

“You think about our seriously long tour to India (which started in September), our long tour against England and then straight into T20 World Cup (in India),” Domingo said.

“Some players stayed behind and played the Indian Premier League (IPL) and flew straight to Caribbean. Some players arrived two days before our first game in Guyana. Now they’re staying for another four weeks in the Caribbean (to play in the Caribbean Premier League), then home for two weeks, then a series against New Zealand, then go and play a mini-IPL, then straight into a tour against Australia.

“Those are challenges that the coaching staff and the players are sitting with at the moment and when you are playing that amount of cricket for that period of time, it’s difficult to maintain the standards consistently.

“The desire and the hunger levels when you are playing day in and day out will wane at some stage. There’s no doubt about that. You can’t give 100% to 10 different teams for 10 months. Something’s got to give.”

If cricket isn’t careful, that something could be playing for national teams.

“The big challenge for me is making sure that international cricket is still the main priority for our players,” Domingo said. “There are lot of tournaments, a lot of money to be made, a lot of opportunities for players to get out there and market themselves.

“We need to make sure that we focus really hard on our No. 1 priority and that is representing our country. Sometimes, if you have done it for a long time, you can take it for granted maybe.

“There is a lot happening outside international cricket. Making sure guys are fresh and hungry to perform for their country is of utmost importance for me.” 

Clearly, the problem is much bigger than any individual, Domingo included.

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Still thinking about the triseries? Here’s why …

TMG Digital


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

SOUTH Africans still agonising over their team’s failure to reach the triseries final in Bridgetown on Sunday will be fixated on two events in the match that sealed that fate – SA’s loss to West Indies on Friday.

In the 11th over Darren Bravo miscued an attempt to put Morne Morkel over the long leg ropes and should have been caught by Wayne Parnell, who palmed the ball over the boundary for six.

West Indies were 40/4 at that stage and Bravo was 11 not out. He went on to score 102 and, largely because of a fifth-wicket stand of 156 between Bravo and Kieron Pollard that Parnell could have snuffed out for 19, the Windies posted a total of 285.

Had that catch been taken would much have changed about Friday’s game? Yes. But catches will be dropped.

Parnell’s error was costly but it was not the kind of catastrophe that sinks a team who have reduced their opponents to 21/4, as SA had.

A better question is why Morkel was bowling in the first place. He was brought on in the ninth over to replace Kagiso Rabada, who had taken 3/10 in four overs.

In ripping rhythm from the outset, Rabada had Johnson Charles caught at second slip and sent stumps flying to remove Marlon Samuels and Denesh Ramdin.

What was AB de Villiers thinking when he decided to pulled his best bowler away from the jugular?

“‘KG’ is a fit man, so maybe (he should have been given) one more over,” De Villiers told reporters in Bridgetown on Friday. “I thought we had four world class seam bowlers in the attack; enough guys who can ask questions.

“You’ve got to give credit to the two batsmen who played pretty well. A chance was created. It wasn’t taken unfortunately.

“But after ‘KG’’s spell I did try pretty much everything we had. Unfortunately we couldn’t get that breakthrough.

“Now that you mention it, perhaps I could have bowled him for a few more overs. But you’ve also got to think of the rest of the game and not bowl your best bowler out in the first spell.”

Hugh Page captained in 23 of the 290 matches he played. What would he have done with a quick who was as deadly as Rabada was on Friday?

“Hindsight is easy, but especially with a guy like Rabada I might have been inclined to give him another two overs,” Page said.

“Hopefully he knocks over another two. If that happens you give him another over and leave him three at the death.

“I would have thought that, if you’ve got them four down for as few as that, generally the game is over. It’s like a boxer having a guy on the ropes.

“After four overs Rabada would have been fresh and probably would have been capable of finishing them off.”

But De Villiers’ decision was only half of the equation.

“It’s easy to blame the captain but if I was the bowler I would have asked for another two overs,” Page said.

Who knows whether Rabada did. He is a confident man but he is still only 21 and Friday’s match was just his 42nd in a SA shirt of any description.

De Villiers is 11 years his senior, has played 383 games for SA, and is the man with whom the bucks stops.

The captain didn’t pass that buck on Friday. But it did elude him.

De Villiers is disappointed? Join the club

TMG Digital


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

BY almost every measure SA and not West Indies should have been Australia’s opponents in the triseries final in Bridgetown in Barbados on Sunday.

But the men in maroon made it to their own party at Kensington Oval, leaving SA to wonder where it had all gone wrong.

“It’s going to be a good game,” De Villiers had told reporters in Bridgetown on Friday. “We’ll see what happens. Both teams are playing pretty well. Both teams have good matchwinners in their side. So it would be nice to maybe just sit back and watch a game of cricket.”

Not for the first time on Sunday, De Villiers would have sat back and watched Australia play they way many of his compatriots would like his team to play more often. Not for the first time, he would have seen the home side make beatable opponents, this time by 58 runs.

And that after SA faced the identical Windies XI at the same venue on Friday and bellyflopped out of the running for a place in the final with what their captain called “a horrible performance”.

Well might South Africans wonder why they weren’t slumped on the couch at 3am on Monday blearily willing their team towards the trophy. 

As a batting team SA had the second-highest runrate in the tournament and their bowlers took wickets at the second-lowest average. Australia led both of those lists with the Windies lagging last. SA’s bowlers were the most economical of the lot.   

“We started something special in the last year, after the World Cup,” De Villiers said of the one-day side. “We went to India (last year) and had a fantastic (series) win there. At home (last season), we were 2-0 down and won three in a row (against England).

“So there’s definitely a belief in the camp that we can win from any position and make it work from anywhere. It’s sad that we couldn’t do that (on Friday) and in this series. I don’t think we were close to our best throughout.

“We still managed to win some games, which is a positive. But, unfortunately, when it mattered most we couldn’t pull through. That’s very disappointing.”

Disappointed De Villiers surely was. Enough to use the word “unfortunately” 10 times in an audio clip of not quite five-and-a-half minutes.

He should be unhappy. It means nothing that his team were ahead of the West Indians in almost every stat because they were behind in the only stat that matters – they didn’t win as many games.

So it was indeed unfortunate and disappointing that, also not for the first time, SA performed like a team smaller than the sum of their parts.

Unfortunately, until they fix that problem this won’t be the last time they disappointment themselves and their supporters.

‘Prexit’ could be Domingo’s downfall

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICECape Town

YOU’VE heard of Brexit. Now comes Prexit, which is the Proteas exiting a tournament in dramatic fashion. Actually, you’ve heard plenty of that, too.

Friday in Bridgetown was just the latest instance. SA needed to beat West Indies to reach Sunday’s triseries final against Australia, and when the home side derailed to 21/4 victory seemed certain.

But the Windies escaped to 285 and dismissed SA for 185 to win by 100 runs – only the 12th time in the 271 completed one-day internationals in which SA have chased that they have felt the pain of a three-figure hiding.   

That ripped the paper off the cracks covered by SA’s rousing bowling performance to beat Australia in Guyana not quite three weeks ago and their flawless allround display to down the Windies in St Kitts on Wednesday. The cold fact is SA played five completed games and failed to win more than those two.

So the naked lightbulb has swung back into the face of Russell Domingo, who before the tournament heard calls for his head as often as Capetonians hear foreign accents on the Sea Point promenade.

Domingo has been SA’s head coach for almost three years. For two years before that he was Gary Kirsten’s assistant, a job he earned through success with the Warriors. He has 10 months left on his current contract but it would be no surprise if he did not see them out.

Indeed, the appeal for clemency AB de Villiers delivered after Friday’s game was as impassioned as it seemed futile.

“He’s played a big role in all of our careers in the last four or five years,” De Villiers said. “I’ve felt he’s done a fantastic job. It’s sad to see him under pressure.

“(The problem is) definitely not the coaching staff. The coaching staff, there’s no doubt in my mind they’re the best in the world.

“Unfortunately as players we let them down in this series. We had ample opportunity in a few games to knuckle down. We should have walked the first game we played (in Guyana on June 3, when West Indies won by four wickets). So it comes down to the players.

“The preparation was perfect. All the coaching staff did their jobs. So it’ll be pretty sad to …”

De Villiers seemed about to say “to see him go”. But he caught himself in time to pause and revise that comment to a repetition of, “ … it is sad to see Russell under pressure”.

SA have won 68 of the 128 games they have played since Domingo was appointed. That’s a success rate of 53.13%. They have lost 50, or 39.06%.

Kirsten’s record as SA’s coach is also in that ballpark: played 66, won 36, lost 22. He won 54.55% and lost exactly a third.

But SA have won only eight – and lost eight – of the 23 tests they have played with Domingo as coach. Under Kirsten they won 12 of 19 tests and lost just two.

Kirsten took SA to the No. 1 test ranking. They are now No. 6. Domingo is the first SA coach to win a World Cup knockout game, the quarter-final against Sri Lanka in Sydney last year, and he inherited a side weakened by Mark Boucher’s retirement and that would suffer the blows of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis calling it quits.

Another giant of the age saw unfairness in all that.

“Not enough of us put our hands up in this series,” De Villiers said. “I got in four out of five times and didn’t convert. Tonight I was dismissed by a bowler who was really bowling well. That happens. But the other four times, no excuse. I just gave my wicket away. It’s just not good enough.”

It isn’t. But it’s a good enough reason to blame the coach.

How to win? Clue: what you think doesn’t matter

TMG Digital


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

THINK less. Do more. If SA could get that into their heads they would be a far more successful team, particularly in the shorter formats.

Their capacity to make that leap will be tested again at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown in Barbados on Friday when they must beat West Indies to reach the triseries final against Australia at the same ground on Sunday.

Thinking too much and doing too little has been at the root of most of SA’s one-day disasters. But, when the pressure was on in another match at Kensington Oval – this one played 11 years ago – one Saffer dared to rely on deeds rather than listen to the whispers deep in his head.

“The ground has changed a lot,” Charl Langeveldt, now SA’s bowling coach, then about to cement his reputation as unarguably the best death bowler his country has produced, told reporters in Barbados.

“It was still wooden. The changerooms were on the other side. But the memory is still there.”

Going into the penultimate over on May 11 2005, the Windies had four wickets with which to score the 10 runs they needed to beat SA. They were seven down when the last over started but only four runs away from winning. Langeveldt stood at the top of his mark …

“One of the locals reminded me. He said, ‘I watched your video just yesterday and here’s the man’. He asked me about it. He said, ‘Take me through what you were thinking’. I said, ‘I wasn’t thinking about a lot’.

“I wasn’t thinking about the outcome because as soon as you start thinking about the outcome you’re not going to perform the way you want to.

“Before the last over there was hardly any pressure because we were expecting to lose the game. So once I got the first wicket (Ian Bradshaw, bowled) I knew we had a chance.

“(Daren) Powell walked in wearing a cap and I thought I should bounce him because that’s disrespect to a fellow fast bowler. But I also thought he’s going to play with his ego, so I went full.

“But not that full because I thought if it’s too full he’s going to try and hit me over my head. So it was the perfect delivery (which bowled Powell).

“And then, when I saw Corey (Collymore), I thought this is probably the best batsman to bowl at if you want to take a hattrick. He’s a proper tailender.

“Bowling that last ball, as soon as I delivered I knew it was out. I thought he was bowled – I got fined because it was lbw and I didn’t appeal, I didn’t turn around to the umpire. It was probably the most expensive hattrick in world cricket.”

And a priceless lesson in performing when it matters. Like it will on Friday and, if SA stay alive, Sunday.

“We’re obviously thinking about the final as well but Friday is the most important,” Langeveldt said. “We’re focusing on that.”

A large part of that focus will be on the make-up of the attack. Spinners ruled in the first three matches of the triseries, which were played in Guyana – where the slow men took 31 wickets compared to the quicks’ 17. In St Kitts, the venue for the next three games, seamers claimed 23 scalps and spinners 17.

SA’s match against Australia in Bridgetown on Sunday was washed out after one over but the home side and the Aussies played a full game on Tuesday. Ten wickets went to fast bowlers and just one to a spinner. 

“We’re not sure who we’re going to go for but we’re preparing as if all the seamers are going to play,” Langeveldt said.

Whoever plays, Langeveldt will hope they show off some of what he has been working on since he succeeded Allan Donald as bowling coach last June. 

“Especially in our one-day and T20 cricket, we were lacking in the skills department,” Langeveldt said. “It was a conscious decision to try and uplift our skills. It’s come up in leaps and bounds. We’re getting there but it’s still a work in progress.

“Hopefully in the next few months we’ll get to where everyone’s got a different slower ball, everyone can bowl a yorker at will, everyone can bowl a slower ball bouncer. That’s the ultimate.”

Correction: the ultimate, at least for now, is winning on Friday and Sunday.

SA, Windies in shootout at the Bridgetown corral

TMG Digital


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

SA will need to beat West Indies in Barbados on Friday if they are to reach Sunday’s triseries final.

That was confirmed in the early hours of Wednesday morning (SA time) when Australia beat the home side by six wickets at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown.

With that, the Aussies secured one of the places in the final. SA and the Windies will fight it out for the other in a straight shootout in the tournament’s last round-robin match.

The home side spiralled to 31/3 on Tuesday before Marlon Samuels’ 125 and a stand of 192 with Dinesh Ramdin, who scored 91, took them to a total of 282/8.

The Aussies were 35/2 and 99/3, but won with eight balls to spare. They were steadied by Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh in a partnership of 122.

Smith was run out for 78, leaving Marsh and Glenn Maxwell to bring their team home with a stand of 62 in which the runs flowed at 8.85 to the over.

Marsh finished not out on 79. Maxwell clubbed his unbeaten 46 off 26 balls with five fours and two sixes.

Du Preez quits as SA captain

TMG Digital


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

MIGNON du Preez has relinquished the captaincy of SA’s women’s team to focus on improving her own performances, a Cricket SA (CSA) statement said on Tuesday. She will be succeeded by Dane van Niekerk.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision and took a lot of introspection but ultimately I believe that this is the best step forward not only for myself but for the team,” the statement quoted Du Preez as saying.

“Stepping down from the captaincy role will give me an opportunity to work on my own game, which has taken a downturn in the last couple of seasons.

“I believe I can make a better contribution by putting runs on the board and offering support and advice to the next captain.”

Du Preez has captained SA since October 2011. Her team won 24 of her 46 one-day internationals in charge and 24 of 50 T20s. She also led SA in a rare test, against India in Mysore in November 2014, which they lost by an innings.

As ODI captain Du Preez averages 26.47. When she is not captain that goes up to 44.92. She scored her only century as skipper but made just two of her seven half-centuries while at the helm despite having had 25 more innings as captain. She has gone 18 innings without reaching 50 in an ODI.

Van Niekerk reeled off a hattrick of half-centuries in T20s against Pakistan and England last season and made 55 off 48 balls in her most recent ODI, against West Indies in East London in February.

A leg spinner, she has taken 81 wickets at an average of 17.23 in ODIs and 47 at 18.72 in T20s.

“This is the biggest honour of my career so far,” Van Niekerk said in the statement. “Captaining my country has been a dream since I began playing cricket and I am humbled that CSA have chosen me for the job.

“I would like to thank Mignon for paving the way and bringing the team this far. I look forward to filling her shoes as best I can and moving the team forward.”

Van Niekerk, 23, already has one game as captain to her credit. She led SA to victory by 56 runs in a T20 against Ireland in Solihull in England in September 2014.

She will take the reins in an ODI for the first time in SA’s home series against Bangladesh in September.