TELFORD VICE, Johannesburg
SOUTH Africa have won 12 of their last 14 matches and lost only one – reason, surely, for Russell Domingo to not feel as if he has to look over his shoulder quite so often.
Like bloody hell.
“I could go tomorrow, nothing is certain,” South Africa’s coach said even as the remnants of the Wanderers crowd celebrated his team clinching a 3-0 test series whitewash over Sri Lanka on Saturday.
“I by no means look too far ahead in my coaching career.
“You never know what’s around the corner in coaching.”
But Domingo did know what was within the corners of the dressingroom.
“I’ve always felt that the support I’ve got from the players is the most important thing,” he said.
“If you’ve still got the support of the players, that’s all that matters.
“I’ve always felt I had that.
“But it’s out of my control; what happens, happens.”
What’s happened is that Domingo, painted as the problem in 2015-16 when South Africa lost five of the eight tests they played in India and at home against England, has been party to their resurgence.
Much the same group of players who lost to India and England have, since August, beaten New Zealand, Australia and Sri Lanka.
In fact, the side has been theoretically weakened from what it was in 2015-16 by the absence of AB de Villiers, who has been out with an elbow injury, from all of South Africa’s recent successes.
Domingo has been a constant through all that, but he receives few of the plaudits that should go his way.
That’s typical of the dysfunctional world of South African cricket, where with tedious predictability various flavours of unconvincingly disguised prejudice are proffered as positions in what should be legitimate debates.
Domingo is a prime target for this kind of cowardice on two counts – he didn’t play international cricket and he’s black.
That’s just another factor of the complex reality of the game in this country.
“South African cricket has got more challenges than most other nations in the world,” Domingo said.
“In terms of finances, in terms of Kolpaks, in terms of the make-up of the team …
“Other teams don’t have to deal with it, a team like England.
“Yet we tend to find ourselves in the top three more times than not.
“There’s a lot to be appreciative of about the way South African cricket operates and the way the players go about their business.
“Not many teams face the sort of challenges we face.
“Maybe the public at times just expect you to be No. 1 at absolutely everything and it’s just not possible when old, mature, experienced high-quality players leave and potentially talented players come into the team.
“The likes of (Quinton) de Kock, (Temba) Bavuma, (Kagiso) Rabada, (Stephen) Cook, to a degree – those players take a little bit of time before they get to that level.
“Some of those guys are now getting to that level and that’s why the team is performing better.”
The months ahead feature a tour to New Zealand and another to England, which will include the Champions Trophy.
Next summer both India and Australia are set to tour South Africa.
Which means that, as promising as South Africa’s form is, they are going to have to keep growing as a team if they want to keep winning.
And they do.
“It’s the start of a new era for this team after the trials and tribulations of the past year or so,” Domingo said.
“We are not the finished article. There is still room for improvement in every department.
“The next year is big for us. We’ve got our rankings back up (to No. 3 from No. 7 on the test ladder) but we’ve still got work to do.”
For his next trick Domingo will take charge of an experimental squad for the T20 series against Sri Lanka that starts in Centurion on Friday.
“I’m really excited by the group of players I am going to be working with,” he said.
“I’m not going to be seeing Faf (do Plessis), JP (Duminy), Hashim (Amla), AB, ‘KG’ (Rabada); there are going to be 13 completely new players.
“They will be so hungry and so desperate to make an impression for South African cricket and that’s exciting for us.
“I’ve told our coaches, ‘Boys, we’ve got to have our A game here because it’s like the first day of school for a lot of these guys’.
“They are so desperate to play for their country and it’s exciting for me to get to work with those types of players.”
And people still wonder why South Africa are winning.