Under Russell Domingo, South Africa have reached the semi-finals of two ICC tournaments © AFP
For all the unwanted accolades Russell Domingo earned this summer – he oversaw South Africa’s longest winless streak in Test cricket since readmission in which they were also bowled out for their two lowest scores – he remains their most successful major tournament coach and therein lies the chance for him to declare this season a success. Domingo has been in charge for two ICC tournaments, the World T20 in 2014 and the 2015 World Cup. South Africa reached the semi-finals in both tournaments and he has reason to believe they can go one, or even two better at the World T20 in India.
“We’ve got a chance. We are one of the most consistent sides in this format. We can go there very confident,” Domingo said on the eve of South Africa’s departure for India. “We have prepared very well. We have some of the best players in the world. We’ve got a seriously good side. We’ll be there and thereabouts.”
South Africa signed off on their home season with a 2-1 series defeat to Australia, but victories over England and India in India in the shortest format would seem to put them among the favourites. However, a difficult few months headlined by Test defeats and talk of AB de Villiers’ workload management means they will fly under the radar for a change and Domingo is quite happy with that. “We are all pretty chilled. I don’t think there is a weight of expectation around our team or any of the teams because of the nature of the competition,” he said.
The structure of the tournament – two groups of five teams with each team playing each other only once – means the chances of slipping up are greater, so Domingo is encouraging his team to “keep it simple,” and not look for a special formula. “You can’t get too fancy, you can’t get too funky. There is no magic wand to wave. The sides that do the basics really well in high-pressure games, they usually come out on top,” he said.
South Africa were that side for five successive limited-overs matches at home when they came from behind to beat England 3-2 in an ODI series and win the first two T20s. All those wins and the first against Australia came chasing, which has allowed South Africa to bury one ghost but resurrect another. “We’ve chased really well which is a big bonus but we need to defend a score. We need to find ways of scraping,” Domingo said.
Domingo’s way of helping them find that is to ensure they have clarity of thought rather than an overload of technical expertise. “I can’t hit my players if they bowl a no-ball, or slap them on the wrist,” he said. “If you make a mistake, the last thing a player wants to hear is, ‘Why did you bowl that?’ Encouraging them and working on their thought processes is the key. If your thoughts are clear you have got a better chance of executing your plan.”
Faf du Plessis has already bought into that philosophy and emphasised that the fundamentals should be South Africa’s focus as they head to into the World T20: “This team has had really good results in the subcontinent but we’ve got some of work to do to make sure we are ready for that first game. We’ve got to work on the basics.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo