WHAT do high-level cricket coaches do? No-one really knows. But here are our top five in South Africa in 2016:
1. Russell Domingo, South Africa head coach
In the wake of South Africa losing five of eight tests last season, crashing out of the running for a place in the World T20 semi-finals in March and failing to reach the final of a triangular one-day tournament in West Indies in June, Domingo seemed about to feel the sharp edge of the axe. Instead, his contract was extended and he has presided over test series wins over New Zealand and Australia and a one-day series walloping of the Aussies. Put away that axe.
2. Neil McKenzie, South Africa batting consultant
Domingo took every chance he got to lament the lack of a specialist batting coach in his dressingroom. Until February, that is, when McKenzie was appointed. Even so the World T20 didn’t go according to plan and neither did the triseries in the Caribbean. But much of the credit for the turnaround against New Zealand and Australia must go to McKenzie. Measuring how much is tricky. Suffice to say that he has helped South Africans score six test centuries and five ODI hundreds this year.
3. Charl Langeveldt, South Africa bowling coach
Beating Australia in Australia without Dale Steyn is a taller order than doing so without AB de Villiers. Happily for South Africa they triumphed without both those matchwinners. That happened not only because Kagiso Rabada is a wonder of the age, but also because Vernon Philander was back to his superb best and Kyle Abbott had risen from the canvas that the 2015 World Cup became for him. And who should South Africans thank for that? Take a bow Mr Langeveldt.
4. Mark Boucher, Titans head coach
Those five words still don’t look right. And when they were first spoken seriously Boucher himself didn’t seem to believe them: he missed the start of the franchise season because he was playing golf in Britain. But there he was in the dressingroom in Centurion on Friday, pulling all the right strings at all the right times to engineer victory over the Warriors in the franchise T20 final.
5. Malibongwe Maketa, Warriors head coach
Maketa was in the wrong dressingroom on Friday, but that was the closest the Warriors had come to being in the right one since they reached the final of T20 competition under Piet Botha in 2010-11, which they also lost. Maketa took the reins from Botha during the 2014-15 campaign and this season his team have played the kind of gutsy cricket they last delivered in 2009-10 under Domingo to lift the one-day and T20 trophies. Watch this space, and this young coach.