South Africa’s new coach Russell Domingo has named his assistant coaches and the ODI and T20 squads to tour Sri Lanka later in the year. As expected, there are no big surprises to the squads and it’s Domingo’s money ball magic that could bear fruits for the Proteas. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
While South Africa were deeply involved in the ICC Champions Trophy, Russell Domingo had plenty to ponder. After being named as Gary Kirsten’s successor, he had to think about whom he wanted to bring in as his lieutenants. As a selector, he also had to think about which team he wants to put together for South Africa’s upcoming tour of Sri Lanka.
He had to do all that while making sure he fine-tunes his approach as head coach. It’s not the easiest task in the world: no matter whom Domingo picked, there will always be criticism for his decisions. Geoffrey Toyana and Paul Adams were two of the names bandied about, but they didn’t make the cut.
Instead, it’s Adrian Birrel and Claude Henderson who’ll be by Domingo’s side. Birrell boasts an impressive resume, including a stint with Ireland and the England Under-19 team. He also knows Domingo from back when they worked together at the Warriors. That partnership was fruitful and the Warriors made it to the final of the 2010 edition of the Champions League. While many might be surprised by the decision to not opt for Toyana or Adams, Domingo had to put his faith in somebody he knows and trusts. Of course he knows both the domestic coaches well, but trusting in somebody he has extensive experience in working with is the best possible decision Domingo could have made.
In the current domestic set-up, Birrell is the only coach with international experience. That wouldn’t have been too much of a factor for Domingo, though. He was appointed without any top-level coaching experience, but it will come in handy with a tough few months ahead.
Henderson’s appointment, meanwhile, is mostly on a consultancy basis. Currently working at the High Performance Centre alongside former national bowling coach Vincent Barnes, Henderson can offer valuable assistance with a host of games being played against spin-friendly sides. South Africa might still be lacking a specialist spinner, but Robin Peterson has grown with leaps and bounds in the past few years and helping him blossom as a player is something Henderson could assist with. He will only be available to the Proteas for 100 days a year and will be tour with them whenever he can.
The squad departs for Sri Lanka on 14 July, with their first match taking place on 20 July. The five one-day internationals will be Domingo’s first real test. He is an astute tactician, something that has become an essential skill in the shorter formats of the game.
The squad looks much the same as it did for the Champions Trophy. Alviro Petersen and Chris Morris both retain their places while Quinton de Kock returns to the one-day setup. Petersen’s inclusion makes things slightly trickier. Domingo will have to decide whether he wants to draft Petersen into the opening spot that he was called up for during the Champions Trophy.
The tweaking and tinkering with the one-day side over the course of the last few years has cost them dearly. Domingo has inherited a side without an identity, still ill with ghosts of choking past, despite very few of those players playing any real part in recent jokes. Getting the combinations right and playing a bit of Moneyball will be Domingo’s biggest strength in the one-day set up. His T20 credentials speak for themselves, but they will really be tested in the subcontinent.
There’s no Dale Steyn in either of the squads. The pace man is being rested for the series with a Test series against Pakistan on the horizon. Morne Morkel is back, but it will be Domingo’s first chance to get the underperforming bowlers into shape. Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Rory Kleinveldt were both distinctly average during the Champions Trophy. A lot of that was down to lack of match fitness, after a four-month layoff before the side headed to England. Sri Lanka is unforgiving cricketing territory, with high temperatures and largely flat batting tracks. Getting his bowlers in the right mind-set will be a baptism by fire for Domingo.
Similarly, the T20 squad has been up and down with AB de Villiers resigning from the captaincy faster than he started. Imran Tahir and Wayne Parnell both return to the side and David Wiese earns himself a call-up on the back of a successful domestic season and his stint with the SA Emerging side’s trip to Namibia. He scored an unbeaten 62 and an unbeaten 40 and can offer a handy extra bit with the ball when needed.
Tahir last played during South Africa’s domestic T20 competition and had some reasonable returns. While he still has to work on his variations – something Henderson will certainly be able to assist with – Tahir is seemingly finding his niche. He’s far better suited to short, sharp bursts of bowling instead of long spells where he has to spend too much time thinking batsmen out. Parnell featured in just a few games during the IPL and although his returns were sparse (five wickets in four games), Domingo has put his faith in the left-armer who showed so much potential at the start of his career, but eventually subsided.
That there were no wholesale changes to the squads is a good start for Domingo. There is a group of players at his fingertips who all have the ability to be top-class performers. Getting the combinations right and getting those players into the right mind-set is where Domingo will work his magic. DM
Photo: Russell Domingo is pictured during a briefing by Cricket SA in Johannesburg on Monday, 6 June 2011. Picture:Werner Beukes/SAPA
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