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Russell Domingo takes on the role of South African national coach as a relatively unknown commodity
May 11, 2013
It took Cricket South Africa three years to sort out its bonus scandal. They have been seven months without a chief executive, and there is no sign they are any closer to finding one, but they needed less than 24 hours to name a new national coach.
Russell Domingo, who has had the preface "little-known" added to his name in many international publications, succeeded Gary Kirsten within hours. It's the organisation's most seamless step in its recent past, and could prove to be one of its best.
Domingo is not a superstar. He is not a Flower, a Fleming or a Ford - all of whom may have registered on CSA's radar when Kirsten decided not to extend his contract. He did not get the same glamorous unveiling Kirsten did: a pre-planned affair within the fake Tuscan walls of the Montecasino complex in northern Johannesburg. He did not get a crew of support staff to flank him, wearing specially made suits with an embossed Protea flower on the breast pocket. He did not even get the same crisp, clear weather.
Instead he got a bitterly cold day, the worst of the winter so far, and a hastily arranged press conference in an ordinary Garden Court hotel in the midst of industrial greyness outside the airport. Twenty-odd people turned up.
But to them he presented the Domingo most of us have always known: a friendly, intelligent, hard-working, sensible and proven coach, who has rightfully earned CSA's confidence to oversee its most prized possession. Domingo has been tasked with the demanding assignments of continuing to dominate Test cricket and win a World Cup. Because the board has ensured continuity, it has given itself the best chance at both.
When Domingo takes over in August, the national team will be almost unaffected. It will need no adjustment phase, and the players' regimes will continue as usual because Domingo is part of the set-up already and helped develop the current team culture and philosophy.
The Kirsten way was not the work of one man. It may have been the brainchild of Kirsten, but it required the buy-in of the rest, which included Domingo. It would have helped that Kirsten and Domingo had a prior rapport and great mutual respect.
Domingo offered Kirsten his first job as a coach, and Kirsten repaid the favour by including him in his management team when he got the position with South Africa. They were no master and pupil; they saw each other as equals.
They had complementary skills. Kirsten is a man-manager who operates more on instinct than on textbooks. His influence over the players came through a combination of respect and ability. They were motivated to play for him, especially as some of them had played with him.
Domingo is a self-proclaimed student of the game whose analytical mind is tempered with his warm personality. He is impressive at gathering and storing information and can recall statistics at will. He is honest and pragmatic.
He does not create any awe around himself, because he feels he doesn't deserve any, having never played, and that is what draws people to him. He is upfront and wants to learn as much as he teaches, and because he gives so much of himself, his charges are willing to do the same.
His time at the Warriors was the franchise's most successful because he set realistic medium- and long-term goals, and then worked towards achieving them. They won what was then a 40-over competition, and the 20-over one in the same season, through targeted planning. The players who came through - Wayne Parnell, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Rusty Theron - went on to play for South Africa in the shorter formats.
He will bring the same kind of structure to his role with South Africa. "There will be a lot of planning that goes into it," he said. "Selection is one of the most important things. Tactically and strategically, the captain and I will need to be on the same wavelength about the patterns of play we are going to employ."
With Graeme Smith in charge of the Test team, those frameworks are already well in place and running smoothly, but Domingo will have his work cut out in the limited-overs formats. Already, he has worked with AB de Villiers and the T20 squad, as South Africa mapped out their succession plan well in advance, and the pair are starting to find methods that work for them. Domingo's main anxiety will come from those formats, but he has already showed with the Warriors that he can build a winning limited-overs squad.
But accolades like that seldom receive the attention they deserve, so Domingo will have his fair share of doubters. They will cite his lack of playing experience, his lack of previous coaching experience at international level and his name, which they may not have heard before, as reasons he will fail. Already fans have put out a list of demands on social media.
"I know what David Moyes feels like this morning," Domingo joked when asked about the pressures of succeeding Kirsten. "In the Eastern Cape, where I coached the Warriors, I'd probably have half a million people watching the progress of the side. Now I'll probably have 50 million. Outside pressures are immense when it comes to coaching a national side."
If anyone has showed they can deal with those, it's probably Domingo. From August he will have the chance to prove that.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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