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December 19, 2012
At a time of change it's natural to look for a constant. While the South African Twenty20 squad adjusts to its new-look and toys with combinations, it does not have the familiarity of an old faithful. Even Russell Domingo is in his first assignment as an international coach.
Domingo is no stranger to top-level cricket. In his five seasons in charge of the Warriors he took them from whipping boys to champions, and oversaw their surprise run at the 2010 Champions League T20, where they reached the final. He has been an assistant to national coach Gary Kirsten since June last year, but as even Domingo acknowledged, "being an assistant is not the same as being a head coach."
The buck, or at least every part of it except the head, will stop at Domingo. Kirsten has retained overall control of all South African national sides so if the unlikely happens and they crash to record defeats, Kirsten can and will still be held responsible. It also means Domingo can and will lean on Kirsten despite having a significant chunk of control himself.
"Gary has said to me I should run with the ball but I always touch base with him. He is ultimately the man in charge and I cannot deviate massively from the processes he has put in place," Domingo said. "But I can do things differently and in my own way. To not tap into Gary's thought process and his brain will be foolish on my part."
Kirsten, who is currently in the Eastern Cape, will attend one of the team's practices in East London ahead of the second match against New Zealand on Sunday. He is also likely to be in attendance at the third fixture in Port Elizabeth. Other than that, Domingo will be left to find his feet on his own.
Domingo's primary task is to strengthen his bond with stand-in captain Faf du Plessis. "Faf has captained A sides and schools teams so he has got leadership skills," Domingo said. "The relationship between us as captain and coach is still in its infancy. We have got a good relationship as assistant coach and player so the relationship will need to develop a lot more. We get on really well and we both have similar thoughts on the game and how it needs to be played and I have been very impressed with what he has offered so far."
Du Plessis is not the permanent leader of the T20 side and is standing in for AB de Villiers who withdrew because of exhaustion. With workload increasingly becoming an issue, especially in de Villiers' case because of his chronic back injury, this could be a trial run for du Plessis and he will already be tasked with great responsibility. "The captain will decide on which XI he feels comfortable with," Domingo said.
Some of that choice will be limited though. The two most experienced members of the squad, in terms of number of matches played, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel will be rested during the series. Steyn will play in the first match on Friday but is unlikely to feature in the next two, while Morkel will come in for the second match.
Domingo has promised that every member of the 15-man squad will get game time as South Africa look to blood new talent and infuse the national culture in each of them. "We are feeding it to them in little drips at the moment," Domingo said. "We are trying to incorporate what we do with the Test squad while also doing certain things a little bit differently because you have to manage these younger players differently. Guys are buying into the way the Test side operates, with a little bit of a different flair."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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