‘STILL WORK TO BE DONE’
Domingo knows that the Proteas aren’t the complete package yet
THE Proteas are a good Test side, a still evolving Test side and a Test side that has plenty more to offer and play for.
The No 1 ranking remains a goal. Finding a reliable third seamer is a crucial short-term target to help them achieve that goal, but in various areas, from the opening combination to the frontline spinner, they seem to be in a good space. Sri Lanka would be able to attest. The defeats just kept getting bigger for Angelo Mathews’ men; by 206 runs in the first Test, 282 in the second, and the series concluded with an innings and 182-run loss inside three days at the Wanderer,s where they faced just 88 overs in total.
For South Africa it’s a wonderful turnaround from where the side were less than a year ago. Losses to India and England, a stunningly inept World T20 campaign and then another failure in a triangular One-Day series in the West Indies didn’t engender much faith in the players or the coaching staff.
But series wins against New Zealand, Australia and now Sri Lanka have shown that lessons have been learned and that despite recent drama over Kolpak contracts, those who take to the field for the Proteas do so with a clear focus.
“It’s the start of a new journey for this particular team after the trials and tribulations of the last year. We are not the finished article. There is room for improvement in every department,” coach Russell Domingo remarked.
He’s still pushing for consistency from the front-line batsmen but feels that in JP Duminy, Man of the Match at the Wanderers, Dean Elgar, the Man of the Series, and Stephen Cook consistency is starting to occur. “There hasn’t been a hot streak among the batters, but we are slowly starting to get there.”
Whether AB de Villiers will be involved at some point to strengthen the batting, Domingo could not say. De Villiers is expected back from injury by the time of the third T20 International against Sri Lanka. “We need to sit down and plan his future. AB’s got to make that decision ... he has to make the decision that he’s available (for Test matches). He has to make some decisions about his future in cricket.”
The major concern is the bowling. Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel remain sidelined and for the tour to New Zealand starting next month, South Africa will have to do without them. In helpful conditions at the Wanderers there were encouraging signs from Wayne Parnell and debutant Duanne Olivier, who shared 11 wickets, but Domingo and Faf du Plessis want greater accuracy and consistency from the third seamer.
“It’s great that they got wickets,” said Du Plessis. “We know with KG (Rabada) and Vern (Philander) at the moment they are extreme world class bowlers, they are relentless. The plan is now for the third seamer to get to that level, hitting areas consistently, making sure that when you’re not taking wickets, you are not leaking runs either. (Parnell and Olivier) will say they leaked too many runs in this game, but they got wickets.”
Though he played no part in the final Test, Du Plessis was very pleased with the rapid development of spinner Keshav Maharaj, who claimed seven wickets in the first two Tests, but as importantly conceded runs at a rate of just 3.14 per over.
After a troubled last year, Domingo’s not taking anything for granted as he looks ahead
there’s the tour to New Zealand, a long tour of England, and India arrive here later this year. “I don’t look too far ahead in my coaching career. You never know what’s around the corner in coaching. The support I get from the players is what’s the most important thing. If you have the support of the players, that’s all that matters. I’ve always felt I’ve had that.”
He asked that the South African public be patient as well. “South African cricket has more challenges than most other cricket nations in the world, that’s the truth,” said Domingo.
“In terms of finances, Kolpaks, the make-up of the team, that’s just the way it is. Yet we always tend to find ourselves in the top three more times than not. There’s a lot to be appreciative of in the way South African cricket operates and the way the players go about their business. Not many teams face the sort of challenge we face. The public just expect you to be No 1 at absolutely everything and that’s just not possible.
“You want to get to the top, but it doesn’t happen quickly. India are the best side at the moment. They are playing a lot of Tests at home and doing so very well. We’ve got to win every series we play; that’s the bottom line and if we do that then the rankings look after themselves.” NOT GETTING AHEAD OF HIMSELF: Russell Domingo, coach of South Africa, knows better than most the ups-and-downs that come with being an international coach and he knows there is plenty of work still to be done by the Proteas.