Proteas try a fresh approach

2015-02-22 08:00

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All the shrinks in the world will not be able to provide the South African cricket team with its first World Cup trophy – if the team doesn’t pull its weight on the field.

This is how coach Russell Domingo this week explained the decision to tackle the quadrennial showcase without a sports psychologist.

Domingo was this week again asked about why the Proteas, who have folded under the pressure of important World Cup matches in the past, are not employing a sports psychologist, as they did in 2007 and 2011. In these tournaments the team bowed out in the semifinal and quarterfinal, respectively.

They take on India this morning (starting at 4.30am SA time) in their second and most important group match in this year’s competition.

“I want us to focus on sharpening our skills and correctly executing our game plan on the field, rather than using a full-time sports psychologist.

“If we can get that right, we will win more matches than we lose and will then also be mentally strong under pressure. It can’t happen the other way around,” Domingo said.

The last time the Proteas used a psychologist was in April last year when Paddy Upton accompanied the team to the T20 World Cup. Upton was part of then coach Gary Kirsten’s Indian team that won the World Cup four years ago.

Henning Gericke, one of the most esteemed sports psychologists in South Africa, worked with the players for a week or two shortly before the start of this year’s World Cup.

“If we do things right again and again during practice, we will also get it right in match situations.

“Besides, we haven’t had a full-time psychologist in more than nine months and have played good cricket during that time,” said Domingo.

The Proteas also have another way of keeping themselves “mentally rested”, according to the coach.

“Our families joined us this week and, with all the time we spend away from home, this can only be a good thing.

“Everyone knows the rules: when we have practice or a game, all our attention is there, but when we get back to the hotel, the guys can forget about cricket,” Domingo said.

But this was also a bit of an adjustment.

“Now the players have to fulfil domestic duties, like looking after their children or taking their wives out to dinner,” he joked.

“The World Cup is a long tournament and you can easily get mentally exhausted. It’s a welcome distraction to have our families here because it helps that we don’t brood over what is still ahead. It keeps the guys mentally rested,” Domingo said.

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