The Proteas are focusing on the practical side, rather than playing mind games to rid themselves of the ‘chokers’ tag.
Head coach Russell Domingo revealed that the team have dispensed with their psychologist and are concentrating solely on honing the skills of players.
‘We have not had a psychologist with us for the past eight or nine months. I’d like our team to focus on their skills,’ Domingo said. ‘If you get your skills right, you can mentally get yourself into a good space to execute under pressure, not the other way round. You can’t be mentally strong but have bad skills.’
The problem, said, Domingo, was that Proteas created their own pressure by thinking too hard about their apporach. ‘In every series we’ve played there has been a mention of the World Cup coming and trying to put ourselves under pressure. I think it was against Pakistan, where we were ahead in the series after four games, and we said, ”Let’s approach the fifth game as though it is a World Cup quarter-final.” In subtle ways, putting ourselves under pressure.’
Which is why he has called in a formidable lineup of support.
With the team are Gary Kirsten and Australian World Cup-winner Michael Hussey in addition to the three bowling coaches, Allan Donald, Charl Langeveldt and Claude Henderson.
‘The most important thing about them is their personalities,’ added Domingo. ‘They are really good people. They’re respectful of the space they’re working in, and don’t try to flood players with information,’ he said. ‘Gary is an experienced coach. He’s been with the side for a long time and he knows when to give information and when not to give information.’
Throughout his tenure as coach of the Proteas, Kirsten was always one for giving the player responsibility, while remaining on the sidelines, ready to step in when needed.
‘Hussey has been in pressure situation,’ said Domingo. ‘He’s known as a very thoughtful cricketer. Hopefully some the things that he’s learnt playing in competitions like this he can pass on to our players – whether it’s in their mental preparations, their tactical strategy when going out to bat under pressure, whether it’s just thinking under certain conditions.’
Adding to the support structure are the players’ families, who arrived at the start of the week.
‘Having the families here can only benefit the players,’ Domingo said. ‘Instead of just going back to the room and thinking about training, they have to look after their kids and take their wives out to dinner. It’s a good distraction to have.’