Getting rid of Russell Domingo would have been the change the Proteas don’t need right now.
Pundits and fans alike have been calling for Domingo’s head for quite some time, and you can’t blame them for feeling that way.
Slipping down to No 7 in the Test rankings was the official mark of how bad things had become. The Proteas were completely outplayed in India, their blushes were spared by weather in Bangladesh, and they were brushed aside by the English earlier this year. Not to mention a disappointing World Cup showing and an early World T20 exit.
There’s no genuine defence for this. The team were lacking direction, the performances were shabby, and it suddenly became well publicised that Domingo’s contract was due to expire in April 2017. It became a matter of when, not if, Domingo would get the chop.
So it was up to Domingo himself to do something about it, and he knew it. This started to take shape in July, as the Proteas went on a two-day cultural workshop. It was an honest, open environment that not only held the players accountable for their performances, but the coaching staff too.
Faf du Plessis, who skippered the side to the whitewash ODI series against Australia, wasn’t shy to reflect on what was needed from Domingo in order to improve, and the fact that there was nothing to hide showed just how much fruit the cultural workshop bore.
‘As a squad we made a huge transition when we went away,’ Du Plessis said. ‘The coaches were really eager to try to improve themselves. They were open and honest enough to accept criticism. Since that day, they’ve been brilliant.
‘Russell has stepped his game up, he’s challenging people now, he’s challenging players to try to be better. I think that’s healthy.’
There’s momentum in the Proteas camp at the moment. Not just in the results, but in the way their attitude has allowed them to achieve results. The spirit in the Proteas dressing room is high. You don’t need to be a fly on the wall to know that. Getting rid of the coaching staff now would put a dent in that momentum.
Let’s not forget that this has happened amid the transformation targets that divided opinion across the country, and the ongoing dilemma surrounding AB de Villiers’ commitment and fitness, a player they used to rely on so much. They’ve batted away both issues as if they were never there in the first place. Domingo has to take some credit for the way that’s been managed.
I’m not saying Domingo is the perfect man for the job. There are other options out there. Geoffrey Toyana, Gary Kirsten, Eric Simons and Paddy Upton to name but a few. Regardless of how well he does in the next year, it probably will be time for a fresh change of perspective come August 2017, four years after he took the reins.
But to cut ties now would be poor timing. Let’s see if that culture camp genuinely helped. Let’s see if they can build on what has been a great start to the season so far.
The forthcoming Test series against Australia and Sri Lanka are massive for the Proteas. The win against New Zealand and the Aussie ODI whitewash were good results, but in no way yet a reflection of how far they’ve come. Domingo has to be at the helm for these series.
Then there’s the tour of England and the Champions Trophy, towards which the Proteas are already building. This building phase needs to ride off the momentum that the Proteas have started for themselves. Rocking that with new management is not the way to go … for now.
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