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July 3, 2013
Russell Domingo is likely to begin his tenure as South Africa's head coach without Dale Steyn. The fast bowler still needs "about three weeks of rehabilitation" according to team manager Mohammed Moosajee, which could rule him out of the limited-overs series in Sri Lanka that begins on July 20.
Domingo will announce his first squad, who will play five ODIs and three T20s against Sri Lanka, on Thursday. He will also unveil a new support staff, which could include his predecessor Gary Kirsten. ESPNcricinfo understands Kirsten may be retained in a consultancy capacity and will work a set number of days with the national team.
On his appointment, Domingo indicated he would keep the same support staff Kirsten put in place which means Allan Donald will likely stay on as bowling coach. The only additions will be a new assistant coach - Lions' Geoffrey Toyana and Cobras' Paul Adams are considered frontrunners - and a new fitness trainer after Rob Walter was put in-charge of the Titans.
Kirsten's philosophy will continue to run through South African cricket but Domingo will be able to demonstrate the direction he wants to take the squad in through his selection. He takes over the limited-overs units which are struggling for identity after Kirsten's Test-centric focus left them in an experimental phase. The manner in which they bowed out of the Champions Trophy - a semi-final loss to England, caused by an all-too-familiar batting collapse - underlined that status. The absence of senior players hurt South Africa as well and it will be up to Domingo to rebuild.
He will probably have to start without Steyn, whose recovery will only be complete after the series gets under way. Even if he is taken on the tour, his workload will be closely monitored. Steyn sustained a side strain in the lead up to the Champions Trophy which ruled him out of South Africa's first two matches and then had a groin problem, which kept him out of the semi-final.
Better news for Domingo is that Morne Morkel should be available. Morkel left the Champions Trophy after South Africa's first match with a quad strain but Moosajee confirmed he has returned to full fitness.
Marchant de Lange, who regularly breaks the 150kph mark, is expected to be recalled after he made a complete recovery from stress fractures and a successful comeback to the domestic scene late last summer. That will leave Domingo to choose two from a pool comprising Chris Morris, who replaced Morkel admirably, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Rory Kleinveldt, which could see Kleinveldt left behind, although he may make a return in the twenty-over format.
Public opinion will still call for Vernon Philander, who took 4 for 8 in his Friends Life t20 debut, but it will be a surprise if he is brought in. With a List A average of 35.74 and a body the administrators want to preserve for Test cricket, Philander is best employed elsewhere.
Given the venue of the series, Domingo will be tempted to take extras in the spin department which includes Robin Peterson, Aaron Phangiso and JP Duminy. Imran Tahir may be in line after ending last season strongly for the Lions while Roelof van der Merwe has also been suggested. Van der Merwe, like Peterson and Phangiso, is a left-arm spinner, so Tahir may be preferred for variation.
South Africa's bowling was barely allowed to come to the fore in the Champions Trophy because their batting let them down and it will be that area Domingo has to pay careful attention to. The problems start at the top where one opening berth has yet to be filled. Hashim Amla needs a partner and since Graeme Smith's recovery from ankle surgery is still months away Domingo could either continue with Colin Ingram or look elsewhere.
Ingram had one significant score in the Champions Trophy, 73 against West Indies, but looked unsure in the role the rest of the time. Titans batsmen Henry Davids, who is in the national Twenty20 squad, would appear the frontrunner for the job. Wicketkeeper batsmen Quinton de Kock could also be in the reckoning.
The result could be no room for Farhaan Behardien, who was benched during the Champions Trophy and has been surpassed by David Miller. With Faf du Plessis and Duminy making up the middle order, Domingo should be confident he has enough firepower on hand.
Ryan McLaren, following a superb Champions Trophy, will be the first-choice allrounder again which should clarify the future of Jacques Kallis as a Test-only player. Names like Albie Morkel and Johan Botha will come up, but the former lost his national contract two months ago as South Africa look elsewhere for two-in-one players and the latter's relocation to South Australia continues to make him unavailable for the national team.
Domingo has a stern task ahead. Although keeping South Africa on top of the Test rankings is still considered the top priority, remoulding the limited-overs sides, especially the ODI one, into the consistent, winning teams they once were is a far trickier assignment. Considering that South Africa have only won one out of 11 ODIs against Sri Lanka at home and have bad memories of their World Twenty20 there last year, it's also a tricky place for the Domingo days to dawn.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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