Russell Domingo carried the air of a man resigned to his fate when he faced the media after another botched assignment.
Domingo reminded one of former Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho towards the end of his second stint in charge at the English Premiership club, when he actually criticised his players and accused them of letting him down.
Domingo didn’t go that far – in fact he made a deliberate effort to not blame the Proteas players. However, he did say enough to know what he was thinking. ‘The players didn’t let me down,’ he said. ‘I’m not going to sit here and blame them. I feel let down by certain performances.’
The Proteas coach then sent as much as broadside as he is capable of. ‘Some senior players are playing all the formats as well as competitions around the world. It’s concerning. When you’re playing that much cricket, it’s difficult to maintain very high standards.’
Disturbingly, those high standards which are demanded at country level seem to surface more when there’s franchise contracts and foreign currency at stake. In that regard, one can’t exactly criticise the players. Money pays the bills and in this professional day and age that’s what’s driving sportsmen to turn their backs on their countries.
Just look at the number of golfers who have withdrawn from the Rio Olympics, many of them expressing fears over the Zika virus. As someone on Twitter said, Adam Scott has got more chance of dying from a spider bite in his native Australia than of contracting Zika in Rio.
There is no money at stake, ‘ just’ Olympic medals, so the golfers seem to have given up on the idea.
On the rugby front we heard that more than 40 South African Super Rugby players would be heading overseas after this year’s competition. That too is understandable in the current economic climate.
However, when it comes to cricket, far too many of the Proteas players have gone AWOL for their country recently, by their lofty standards, and here I include the likes of AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, and, of course, the greatest under-achiever, relatively speaking, of the past five years or so, David Miller.
Perhaps it’s the fault of the media for giving Miller too much publicity that built the expectations. He became a media creation to suggest that he would be one of the most destructive batsmen of this or any other era. On his day he can be, but there are too many poor scores dotted amongst the good ones. Especially where the Proteas are concerned, Miller has gone ‘missing’ too often.
The real ray of light in the last 18 months – Domingo believes it’s only the last six months that haven’t gone according to plan – is Kagiso Radaba. The emerging superstar, and that description is deliberate, is a real gem and gives everything each time he steps over those ropes, and it doesn’t depend on whether he’s getting paid handsomely or not.
Of course, too much cricket and too much fame could yet scupper that commitment, but right now Rabada is a man on a mission. And how privileged are we that he is a South African.
Back to Domingo though. He has 10 months left on his contract and is determined to ‘see it through’, but that too was like Mourinho in his last stages at Chelsea. It’s a resigned ‘going through the motions’. Domingo’s race is almost run and he knows it.
One of the problems is, who else is out there to take over and take some pampered millionaires down a peg or two? South Africa has some fine coaches, although many of them have, like the players, chosen to ply their trade overseas. Mickey Arthur, now with Pakistan, Allan Donald, with Australia – while the likes of Jacques Kallis, Jonty Rhodes and Alfonso Thomas are cutting their coaching teeth outside the country.
Then, just when you would have thought that Cricket SA would have been falling all over themselves to include Makhaya Ntini in the coaching set-up, the former opening bowler was forced, so he says, to look to Zimbabwe to be given a chance in the coaching ranks. And he was followed by Lance Klusener.
That simply didn’t make any sense at the time and still doesn’t. And, while Rome burns, the cream of the Proteas playing ranks simply hops on to one T20 train franchise followed by another.
Photo: Johan Rhynners/Gallo Images