South Africa captain AB de Villiers has mounted a strong defence of coach Russell Domingo in the aftermath of the team's exit from the Caribbean triangular series. De Villiers said the players, not the coach should be blamed for the team's failure to reach the final after losing three of six round-robin matches, including Friday's must-win against West Indies.
"He's played a big role in all of our careers in the last four or five years. I've felt he's done a fantastic job. It's sad to see him under pressure. It's definitely not the coaching staff. The coaching staff, there's no doubt in my mind they're the best in the world," de Villiers said. "Unfortunately as players we let them down in this series. We had ample opportunity in a few games to knuckle down. We should have walked the first game we played. So it comes down to the players. The preparation was perfect. All the coaching staff did their jobs. It is sad to see Russell under pressure. It shouldn't be that way. There are a few players who should be under pressure."
De Villiers admitted his own performance in the tournament was "just not good enough". In six games, de Villiers scored 121 runs at an average of 24.20, his worst average since an ODI series against India in 2010-11. "I got in four out of five times and didn't convert. That's the first thing I will teach any youngster: convert your scores, make them big ones especially once you get to 20 or 30. There's no reason for me to get out after that because I'm in and seeing the ball well. Four out of five times I didn't do that," he said.
De Villiers' decision to take Kagiso Rabada, who had taken three wickets in his first three overs, out of the attack early in the West Indies innings came under scrutiny in the post-match conference. "KG (Rabada) is a fit man, so maybe one more over. I thought we had four world-class seam bowlers in the attack, enough guys who can ask questions," he explained. After KG's spell I did try pretty much everything we had. Perhaps I could have bowled him for a few more overs. But you've also got to think of the rest of the game and not bowl your best bowler out in the first spell."
De Villiers identified the batting as a reason for their elimination from the tri-series. JP Duminy scored 92 runs with a highest of 41 and has not scored an ODI fifty in his last 11 innings, dating back to July last year. Quinton de Kock scored one fifty and averaged 29.80. Only Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis, who scored 241 and 139 runs respectively, propped up the batting in what de Villiers called a case of "too many individuals who didn't step up."
South Africa acquitted themselves better with the ball. Imran Tahir is leading the tournament's bowling charts but when he went wicket-less, as he did on Friday, the bowling group struggled.
With two all-rounders, two seamers and a specialist spinner in their XI, South Africa also made the mistake of having a batting line-up which was too short. The lopsided balance meant they could not string together enough complete performances despite what de Villiers described as rigorous preparation after two months off.
"Not enough of us put our hands up in this series. That's what it comes down to," he said. "Our preparation was really good. Our coaches have been unbelievable. Russell Domingo put us through our paces like never before. So we put the hours in. We had really intense fielding sessions, batting sessions, bowling sessions. Unfortunately the batting kept collapsing and there were not enough partnerships. There were too many individuals who didn't step up."
Domingo has not made a public comment yet but may have to on the team's return home. De Villiers will not make the trip as he stays on to play in the CPL.
Although CSA called off the independent review into the national teams' performances because they could not agree terms with the panel, Domingo's position was expected to come under scrutiny during that process. He has 10 months left on his contract, which expires at the end of April 2017. If he is to be replaced it is likely to happen sooner than that, perhaps even now.
South Africa have a month off before two Tests against New Zealand, ODIs against Ireland and Australia at home and a three-Test tour to Australia, a series which will define the 2016-17 summer. Given the importance of the series against Australia and the subsequent preparations for the Champions Trophy, a new coach will likely be installed before those matches, which means Domingo's days could have ended on Friday night in Barbados.