Critical time for Domingo
While “the show” must go on and everybody gets on with what it is they are meant to do, one cannot help but say that the blows that the Proteas team has taken in the last week or so are pretty big ones.
To have stalwarts such as Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith withdrawn from any South African squad due to extenuating circumstances is not easy to deal with. Add to that the announcement that the coach, Gary Kirsten, who is pretty new and very popular in the job, will not be continuing as head of the set-up, and one has a situation that is less than ideal.
The absence of Smith and Kallis is not permanent, or at least not intended to be so, therefore there will be a time when both are back in the squad to contribute with their vast experience, expertise and knowledge which adds steeliness to the South African side. Gary Kirsten though is done and dusted after the ICC Champions Trophy and off to do whatever he pleases.
How big a chasm does he leave in the system? Has he passed on his philosophies and methods to Russell Domingo who was his second in command right from the beginning of his tenure? Will Domingo seek to blaze a new trail or to continue what his predecessor began?
There are many questions that will be asked as Kirsten's "resignation" came as a surprise to most people. The expectation was for him to take the squad all the way to the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2015, It was unwritten and probably also unsaid but surely expected. Why then the seemingly sudden exit or decision not to extend the contract? Is there something else at play rather than just the family issue?
Whatever the story, the next phase (after Kirsten) is very important for the Proteas and needs to be handled well. Domingo takes over a test match team that is at its best with players at their peak, and he must ensure that he carries on the culture of winning but also that he brings on the younger players in the squad as they can be his stalwarts in time to come.
That Domingo has done his learning at the top level under Kirsten may well mean that he will not change much, if anything at all, but Domingo must also seek to be his own man so as to put a stamp of originality on things. Try as he might to do things like the previous coach, he is a different person and so will not necessarily get the same response from his players. He needs to discover exactly how to deal with each man.
Despite having been in the camp a long time, Domingo’s role now changes and he must assume more authority and deal with the pressures of team results while continuing to focus on preparing the team to play at its best.
Gary Kirsten managed to take the Proteas to the next level in terms of the test match scenario and will be respected greatly for that; it is there that his impact has been most noticeable. He did also take it upon himself to experiment quite a lot by introducing many different players into the ODI and T20 formats so as to find the next generation of South Africa’s limited-overs side.
During the home limited-overs series against Pakistan at the end of last season, it seemed that the sifting had been done and there was a settling on certain individuals in the squads. Russell Domingo must now take the team and those individuals forward.
With the ICC Champions Trophy as his last gig, it may well be that Gary Kirsten quietly and in the confines of the Proteas changerooms and team rooms pulls Russell Domingo to the forefront just so as to set him on his way. Many will have already told Domingo that he has a big job ahead; he will no doubt have figured that out himself. Just how big it is though, he is yet to realise, and will only do so come the 1st of August when Kirsten officially exits the stage.