For arguably the first time ever, Cricket South Africa has acted quickly and decisively. Just a few hours after Gary Kirsten announced that he would not be renewing his contract as national coach, his deputy, Russell Domingo, was announced as successor - and it’s the best thing CSA could’ve done. By ANT SIMS.
Sometimes the simplest solution is the right one, especially in sport. Gary Kirsten has decided not to renew his contract with the Proteas, after being appointed on a two-year deal in 2011 – and the choice of his successor was both the least complicated and the best.
Some may have been shocked at Kirsten calling time on his tenure, but from the start, he was actually pretty reluctant to accept the job. Kirsten is a family man, and part of the reason for his departure from the Indian side was to spend more time with his family; he has always made his decisions based on what would be best for them. Whether it’s flying home from Australia briefly or entrusting his assistant coach with taking responsibility for the T20 side, Kirsten has his priorities straight – and as the demands of modern sport only grow more rigorous, it’s not surprise that he has decided to walk away now. His timing is a little unexpected, sure – leaving before trying to lead South Africa to a World Cup win – but by and large, it’s not a shock.
When he decided he wouldn’t continue, Kirsten personally contacted all the players he works with to inform them of his decision. He was also the one to let his successor know. Of course, it wasn’t Kirsten’s influence alone that determined who would succeed him, but the current coach certainly had plenty of input. He is a firm believer in empowering the support staff, and what better way to empower those in supporting roles than letting them rise to be star of the show?
Encouragingly, South Africa has moved quickly and has, perhaps for the first time ever, been progressive in its thinking. Instead of appointing a replacement and fussing with a lengthy application process, the Proteas have opted for a successor instead. A man who has entrenched himself in the Proteas’ set-up since being appointed Kirsten’s deputy; a man whose credentials are pretty impressive. And while he might be young, Domingo is determined, creative, and possesses a certain pizzazz.
While the remainder of the year is fairly quiet for South Africa, their schedule is jam-packed from December. They host India in December for a full tour before Australia comes to visit. That’s followed by the T20 World Cup, a full-tour of Zimbabwe, a tour of Australia, and finally, West Indies visiting South Africa in the summer of 2014. For anybody with a young family, that’s a lot of time to spend away from home. For somebody who has seen it all and done it all, it’s unnecessary time to spend away from home. Nobody should begrudge Kirsten his decision: he has been a brilliant servant of the game for the last few years, and he has achieved set the foundation for his successor to continue to on that remarkable path.
It shouldn’t be too hard. Domingo is approachable, friendly and always up for a laugh. He is an astute analyst and strategist and when it comes to talking shop, Domingo is the kind of guy whose brain you want to pick.
He finds himself in a good position, with a solid team assembled. Having learned from Kirsten, Domingo is set to entrench himself within the heart of the team and take their already towering excellence to even greater heights, at Test level anyway. To continue to build that kind of supremacy shouldn’t be too tough for Domingo; his real challenge will lie in the shorter formats of the game.
Luckily for the men he’s about to manage, the strategy behind the shorter formats of the game is exactly where their new coach’s greatest strength lies. He will take over Kirsten’s selection role, too – a crucial cog in the strategy wheel – and if Domingo applies himself as well as many expect he will, the Proteas might well just have struck gold. DM
Photo: Then new South African cricket coach Gary Kirsten gestures during a news conference in Johannesburg, June 6, 2011. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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