Cape Town – South Africa’s national coach Russell Domingo must be looking forward to the relative “sanctuary” of limited-overs cricket again.
Inevitably, he has come under as much fire as anybody else for the Proteas’ costly, swelling sequence of Test matches without a win – it will become 10 if they fail to prevail in the dead-rubber final Test against England starting at SuperSport Park on Friday.
As things stand, Domingo’s Test win percentage record in charge of SA has receded to 31.8% ... of the 22 Tests played in his tenure, ahead of the Centurion clash which closes out our summer in that format, they have won only seven, drawn seven and surrendered eight.
That is a desperately poor figure for a team who, until very recently, were proud holders of the ICC Test Championship mace but now run the risk of sinking to near mid-table status.
Still, there are mitigating factors that cannot be ignored over the especially problematic last few months: first there was a dubious wisdom – something out of his control – of scheduling a two-Test series in Bangladesh’s often fierce rainy season.
The fact that there was no play at all on six days of the intended 10 quite obviously was a massive impediment to the Proteas downing the minnows; both games duly ended in stalemate.
Then there is also, in the current series, the almost complete absence of main strike bowlers Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander (the latter hasn’t started a single Test) to consider – they are players of such proven quality that the present situation of England sitting on an unassailable 2-0 lead might have looked vastly different had they been available to bolster a home outfit already in a rebuilding mode and desperately requiring battle-hardened experience.
Domingo’s period in charge – he became SA coach in mid-2013, succeeding the resigned Gary Kirsten – was looking rather more promising from a Test point of view in his early phase, which included a rare away series triumph against Sri Lanka, so often previously tormentors of the Proteas in their own Subcontinent backyard.
But his five-day record has worsened considerably in the past several months, which is a justifiable cause for concern.
Nevertheless, his critics have considerably less ammunition to fire at him in limited-overs terms, where he sits at very close to 60% win rates in both the ODI and Twenty20 arenas with the Proteas.
Frankly, this environment has always been his forte, if you like: the way he turned the reasonably unfashionable Warriors into a one-day force was a powerful motivation for his eventual elevation to the national hot seat.
During his tenure at the franchise, they won both domestic limited-overs competitions in the 2009/10 season, and were runners-up in the now defunct, multinational T20 Champions League in 2010.
In many ways, it could be argued, Domingo has favourably transferred that nous into the international fray.
There have been bumps along the way in ODIs – almost every team has them in a packed, fatiguing itinerary – but the Proteas appear to be building a promising head of steam of late: their last two series have seen a home win against dangerous New Zealand (2-1) and exemplary, first-time 3-2 bilateral triumph in the uniquely harsh landscape of India.
Domingo also came as close as any predecessor to delivering an elusive World Cup in early 2015, where South Africa bowed out in a desperately tense semi-final to co-hosts New Zealand after the Philander/Abbott “political” storm caused damaging disturbance to the Proteas’ focus in the immediate lead-up.
That was again something presumably beyond Domingo’s hands to a good extent.
Meanwhile at T20 level, South Africa appear to be getting their team balance right – a big bugbear at Test level, post-Kallis – and have not lost a bilateral series in their last three, including wins over Bangladesh and India on their own terrain.
This stands the Proteas in fairly good stead for the looming next ICC World Twenty20 tournament in India in March.
Domingo earned a contract extension from Cricket South Africa, in the middle of last year, to April 30 2017, and I suspect his post may only become seriously imperilled ahead of that if the Proteas also have a rough time of it from England in the limited-overs phase of their safari shortly and then fare badly at the global get-together.
In a few days’ time, the coach gets back for a quite protracted period into modes of the game he is most renowned for doing well at.
It is if the wheels come off there as well that his future in the berth will really look tenuous ...
Here is Domingo’s full, up-to-date record for SA in the three formats:
Tests: Played 22, won seven, drew seven, lost eight (win percentage 31.8)
One-day internationals: Played 59, won 35, lost 22, two no-results (win percentage 59.3)
Twenty20 internationals (two additional, scheduled matches were abandoned without starting): Played 26, won 15, lost 11 (win percentage 57.6).
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