Tom Sizeland highlights five talking points ahead of the Tri-nations series opener between South Africa and West Indies in Guyana.
DOMINGO UNDER PRESSURE
Domingo will in all likelihood see out his contract that expires in April next year, but nothing is certain, and if he wants to stand any chance of coaching the national team beyond that, he must produce results immediately. To be fair to Domingo, the Proteas haven’t lost an ODI series since their shock defeat to Bangladesh, and his win percentage since he took over in July 2013 reads 60%. Domingo has overseen series wins against India, New Zealand and England since then, and their ODI ranking is third – their best across the formats. But it doesn’t hide their slide down the Test rankings and their failures at major tournaments, so Domingo needs to produce the goods consistently. He declared himself ‘fresh and ready to go’ not so long ago. It must start now, and continue into the home series against New Zealand.
Something that should benefit the Proteas going into this match is the problems West Indies have been experiencing behind the scenes recently, and it has had a major impact on the players. Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell and Darren Sammy are all missing from the squad because they weren’t handed international contracts for one controversial reason or another. The inclusion of Kieron Pollard screams double standards, as he hasn’t played any domestic cricket there this season, one of the prerequisites for playing internationally. They might be the World T20 champions, but their ODI setup is a different machine – it’s one that missed out on qualification for next year’s Champions Trophy, and they have just lost to a Barbados Select side twice in three days. The return of Sunil Narine should boost them immensely, but don’t expect them to be the same force they are in the shortest format.
Several of the players in this squad have barely had a break as they’ve just finished their respective IPL stints in India. This should benefit the majority of them, however. Chris Morris will be eager to continue his excellent all-round form and translate it to the national team, of which his place is no guarantee. Quinton de Kock had a successful tournament and will want to build on that, while Hashim Amla should still be fresh having only joined the tournament towards the business end. Kyle Abott and Farhaan Behardien were largely surplus to requirements, so will be desperate to get on the field.
YOUTH vs EXPERIENCE
If Domingo sees this as a new era of sorts, an ‘exciting time’ as he put it, it doesn’t exactly reflect in the squad. There are still eight players over the age of 30 in it, including Farhaan Behardien, the above-mentioned Phangiso, and Morne Morkel, who was left out of the World T20 squad. This is surely Phangiso and Behardien’s last chances to show their worth in the national setup, and their roles must be made clear. It’s important to give players like Rossouw, Parnell and Shamsi a go. They are all 26, and they need to be given the opportunity to prove that they should be mainstays for the next few years. This squad will see plenty of change over the next couple years due to the players’ ages, so there needs to be some stability during this period.
Conditions are generally helpful for the spinners in the Caribbean, and Narine’s return will certainly play its role. The Windies have given themselves plenty of options in this department with the inclusions of Ashley Nurse and Sulieman Benn, while Samuels should prove useful in the middle overs, too. The Proteas have gone a similar route, and it will be interesting to see who will lead the line in this regard, with Imran Tahir, Aaron Phangiso and Tabraiz Shamsi all competing for a spot, and Duminy doing part-time duties like Samuels. They might even opt for two spinners, which might finally be a chance for Aaron Phangiso to get an extended run. Expect Tahir and Phangiso to see the most game time, with a debut thrown in for Shamsi at some point.