TELFORD VICE, Adelaide
FIRST came Faf du Plessis. Then Vernon Philander. Then Steve Smith, Usman Khawaja and Darren Lehmann. And Stephen Cook.
Only then, more than 40 minutes after the start of the barrage of press conferences that followed Australia winning the third test by seven wickets in Adelaide on Sunday, Russell Domingo sat down behind the microphones.
The press conference is, as one grizzled Aussie journalist said earlier in the Adelaide test as we waited for another victim to present himself, “the opiate of the hack”.
They can be tediousness itself for both the questioned and the questioners, an apparently necessary evil of modern sport.
Being the only person on the other side of the microphone curtain can be deflating, nevermind waiting for six others to do their thing first.
So perhaps that’s why Domingo seemed flat.
Or maybe, still thinking about what went wrong for South Africa in Adelaide, Domingo was struggling to rekindle the happiness of winning the series in Hobart two weeks previously.
Or he was keeping it real.
“You can’t think you’re the best side in the world when you’re winning and you can’t think you’re the worst in the world when you lose,” Domingo said.
“It’s the same with coaching – you can’t think you’re the best in the world when you’ve won a few games and you can’t think you’re the worst coach in the world when you’ve lost a few games.
“You’ve got to keep a balance and you’ve got to keep perspective, and you’ve got to keep the focus on things you can control.”
Among the things Domingo can’t control is what his underground army of detractors – motto: what does he who has never played high-level cricket know about coaching? – say, even though he has reeled off one-day and test series triumphs against Australia?
“It’s just another day,” Domingo said with a shrug. “It’s no drama in my life. There’s always going to be people (who doubt you).
“You try not to get to stressed about it and think about it too much. You’ve just got to try and do the best you can, and that’s what I’ve really focused on.
“I’ve always said it’s not about me – it’s about the team and the players and how the team plays.
“If I’m the right guy for the job, I am. If I’m not, I’m not. That’s the bottom line.
“The team is more important than any individual and that’s my mantra.
“I know some people have thought that that’s not the case, that I’m not the right guy. But so be it. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion.”
Some of those opinions were that South Africa would struggle to replicate their 5-0 ODI series win over the Aussies in the tests because rested fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood would be back in harness.
The visitors went into the series without AB de Villiers, who is recovering from elbow surgery, and they lost Dale Steyn to a broken shoulder on the second day of the first test in Perth.
South Africa will win despite all that? Let’s get real …
You could argue that the naysayers had a point. South Africa did not, after all, win the test series 3-0; only 2-1. And Khawaja and Hazlewood were the leading runscorer and wicket-taker.
But Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Abbott and Vernon Philander all banked five-wicket hauls and Dean Elgar, Stephen Cook, JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis all scored centuries.
To Hazlewood went Australia’s only five-wicket effort and Khawaja scored an equally lonely century for them.
The better team? No contest.
For South Africa it was all so different to last season, when they lost five of eight tests and tumbled from No. 1 to No. 7 in the rankings.
Domingo gave a large chunk of the credit for that resurgence to Philander, who missed most of the 2015-16 campaign with an ankle injury.
He took a dozen wickets at 23.58 in Australia and provided the stability South Africa needed to keep the pressure on the batsmen.
“It’s good to have players back and to have players back in form; that’s the bottom line,” Domingo said.
Another bottom line is that De Villiers seems set to return as captain despite Du Plessis’ success in the role.
“Obviously those decisions get made by the board with suggestions from the selection panel,” Domingo said.
“As far as I know the status quo will remain – AB de Villiers is the guy that’s in charge and once fit he will come back into the side.”
Easy to say, more difficult to do. Even squeezing De Villiers back into an increasingly settled batting line-up looms as a challenge.
“AB de Villiers is one of the best (batsmen) in the world,” Domingo said. “I’m assuming he’ll come straight back into the side and somebody will need to make way for him – you can only play 11.”
Whoever they are, they’ll be a damned good team.