South Africa news April 7, 2014

Domingo hits out at detractors


When Russell Domingo succeeded Gary Kirsten as South Africa's head coach, he compared the expectations thrust on his shoulders to what David Moyes may have experienced when he took over from Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. It turns out Domingo has more in common with Moyes than just the nature of their appointments.

In February, when United drew 2-2 with the then bottom-of-the-table club Fulham, Moyes had to meet the media to explain the team's performance. On Monday, after South Africa crashed out of a14th ICC event without making the final, Domingo had to front up to the fourth estate.

Both men defended their teams and their tactics by hitting out at critics. Moyes described his players as "terrific," despite the stalemate and half-insulted those who disagreed, saying they needed "to have a football brain to understand," United's approach.

Domingo claimed "there were a lot of positives," to be taken out of the World T20 showing, so he was "not displeased with the way we played." He added that the group as a whole "feel there is a lot of unfair criticism to what's happened."

While Moyes' popularity shrunk among the Old Trafford faithful, Domingo has been targeted by not only the fans, but even former pundits and players. He is nonetheless putting on a brave face.

"The opinions that matter to me are the opinions of the players. It is disappointing that guys who have been in this situation before are throwing darts," Domingo said. "I guess that's just the way it goes in South African sport. It's sad when that type of thing happens because some of those people have also been here before, they have also lost games and they have also made mistakes. Those opinions aren't the ones that are important to me."

Most notable among the critics is former national captain Kepler Wessels who wrote in his column on that "as far as strategy is concerned, in the shortest format, the Proteas are some way behind the leading teams." Wessels took aim at the coaching staff saying "they refuse to accept that impact players, with either bat or ball, have to be put in positions consistently where they can influence the outcome of the match."

Wessels also suggested the current management should continue in the Test arena but a specialist limited-overs coaching team should take over to prepare the team for the fifty-over World Cup. "It may be time for fresh ideas from a coaching group that embraces the modern T20 and 50-over format," Wessels wrote.

Daryll Cullinan on Match Point on these pages held a similar view but was not as generous in his assessment of Domingo or the captain Faf du Plessis. "The sooner SA Cricket realise that Russell Domingo will not take this team forward and that Faf de Plessis has a long way to go as captain, the better," Cullinan said. "You have to point fingers at their thinking in terms of how they think games can be won; everyone else has firm beliefs on it except those two."

Both Wessels and Cullinan were among the slew of outsiders who advocated the theory that AB de Villiers should bat higher up the order, preferably at No.3, so he could face the bulk of the bowling. Domingo batted de Villiers in a position where he could only walk to the wicket after 10 overs based on statistical evidence that de Villiers' average and strike rate is higher in the second half of the innings while he fails to make an impact in the first half. That is a principle Domingo is sticking to.

"AB has batted at 3 a few times and has had limited success. It's not the number he bats; it's the situation of the game when he comes in," Domingo explained. De Villiers has come in after 10 overs nine times in the 42 innings in which he has batted at No.3 or No.4 in T20s for South Africa and averages 43.5 with a strike rate of 169.48 compared to an average of 19.55 with a strike rate of 110.74 when he is in before the end of the 10th over, batting in the same positions. His highest score at the World T20, 69 against England, was also his only score over 30 and came when he batted in the second half of the innings.

"It's not just for South Africa, but for the Royal Challengers Bangalore as well that AB plays better where there is a good start. AB will be the first to admit that he is a better player when then game is set up for him. he is an impact player. Faf and JP were voted to be included in the ESPNcricinfo T20 team of the year," he said. "We have quality players. I would hate the whole team strategy to be around one player. The problem is that people want AB to face 120 balls and Dale to bowl 120 balls and that ain't gonna happen."

That Domingo mentioned Steyn in the same breath points to the other issue South Africa have faced. Steyn only opened the bowling once and was held back to strangle teams at the death, while JP Duminy and Albie Morkel shared the new ball on three occasions. While many feel using the scariest bowler first up is the best option, Domingo explained why he disagreed.

"The statistics will show the first two overs are the overs that go for the least runs, while overs four, five and six are targeted. We would rather have JP bowling in less pressured situations and then have Dale coming in later on."

Domingo also explained the decision to leave out the second specialist spinner, Aaron Phangiso in the semi-final on a surface which suited spin. "We were thinking JP and Imran would bowl eight overs and then Aaron, when would he bowl?," Domingo asked. "With three left-arm batsmen in the Indian top six and him being a left-arm spinner, it didn't seem a good option. It's also about who you are playing against."

Whether Phangiso would have been able to restrict India to under the 172 South Africa posted will always be the stuff of hindsight. So will whether South Africa could have done anything differently to finally claim a major title and Domingo can only see sense in dealing with certainties.

Having been in charge of South Africa's T20 side since December 2012, overseen series wins over Sri Lanka and Pakistan, taken over the ODI side and watched them beat Pakistan and India, he is sure that South Africa are improving in their limited-overs cricket even though they don't have a trophy to show for it.

"I went to one previous ICC event, the Champions Trophy in England and we were completely blown away. In this semi-final, we were in this game for 36 overs of the 40 overs. That in itself is progress," Domingo said, without denying there is room for improvement. "There are times when you will be outplayed so in terms of winning the game, there is no progress."

He had this to say to the doubters. "I think our limited-overs cricket has improved a lot. There's an upward trend. Maybe some people don't see it, maybe they don't want to see it, maybe they just have other issues." Whatever it is, Domingo insists he will "keep doing the job I have to do."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Harjinder on April 9, 2014, 3:20 GMT

    It is clear South africa 'bowling attack is completely failed in semi along with DALE .we should not blame FAF .He is very positive captain and person ....any way NOW we should concentrate on ODI team towards WC 2015 .So all the talented players around 20 yrs should be called in camps to watch out their strength and role ,to be in team ( T.BAVUA .B.hendricks ,R.hendricks ,Rossow ,Levi ,Peidt ,ELGAR ,ABBOTT, Morris must be called in ,,,,,Elgar is good bat / spin bowl option but SA board always ignore him . Good luck

  • Dirk on April 8, 2014, 20:21 GMT

    Were SA beaten in the semifinal by a better team? Yes. Admit it. Did South Africa perform as well as they should have? No. Admit it. Winners who happen to lose bite the bullet.The taking of positives from defeats is an art cultivated by losers. Losing captains, losing coaches.

  • Dummy4 on April 8, 2014, 19:41 GMT

    I agree wit Kepler, coaching staff need to be replaced but in all formats. SA looked shell shocked against Australia in the test matches, with only the second test. Made me realize that the coaching staff had no idea on what tactics to use and how to strategize.

    Abott should have been in the team and we needed another spinner\bat like Elgar. Everyone is on about AB and Steyn. Fact is they can't do it every match and not many others are picking their hands up. Picking Albie was a shocker. Also why pick Phangiso if you going to make him sit on a bench.

    New players with all round abailities need to be looked at. Millers role must be defined. QDK needs to adapt to the situation.

  • Craig on April 8, 2014, 18:52 GMT

    How to gain friends 101: Do not hit out at detractors.

    @ Kirstenfan, great post regarding AB v Kohli.

  • Mervynn on April 8, 2014, 15:25 GMT

    I'm no analyst, but couldn't a possible reason for the first two overs of T20s being the lowest scoring of the innings (on average) be that most teams use their best bowlers for those?! It's like saying a batsman had only scored on the leg side, while ignoring the fact that the off side had been loaded with fielders. Quality opening bowling creates circumspection, which creates a lower scoring rate, which creates more pressure, which creates a need to accelerate ...which in turn creates opportunities for the less penetrative bowlers later as the batsmen need to ignore caution to score ...surely?!

  • Dummy4 on April 8, 2014, 15:22 GMT

    Domingo is far more tactical than any other coaches South Africa have ever taken to a world cup game, he picked the best team which was never done right previously, why ask AB to bat at 3? is SA lacking anyone at 3? Duminy was great at 3, AB himself had proved he's up to his best when the ball is old and the conditions are hot, that's after 10 overs, no point in blaming Domingo, it's now just a matter of few years before SA will lift a world cup for sure, wait, give them a chance, this time they will produce good

    Speaking of Steyn at the first few overs, surely the batsmen will see him through if its his day and so hard to play, but when he comes at the end, where no batsman will need to see anyone through for no runs, he can use his skills to restrict them. That is the same thing, the victorious Sri Lankans did in their final 7 overs, Maling bowled 3 of them, how much did India's fearsome batsmen pull out of those overs? almost nothing

    This SA team and coaching staff is the best

  • Navish on April 8, 2014, 15:14 GMT

    As a passionate SA supporter I think it goes without saying that I am disappointed about us being knocked out in the semi final again. For the record though, I must say that I don't believe we choked. We were beaten by a better and more experienced T20 team in India. There were alot of positives that I believe this team can take from the tournament. Highest for me on that list would be their performances in the crunch situations. I believe they showed great character in the tense moments. As much as it has been highlighted in the media about not playing our best batsman higher up the order which I do agree with, I don't think that was our main problem. I believe a lack of skills in the bowling department let us down. No real consistent death bowlers and a lack of ability to think out the box and adapt to a given situation is what failed us. This format with its constant changes and flux is truly our achilles heal for now because it highlights our regimental nature.

  • Jurie on April 8, 2014, 12:27 GMT

    Domingo is taking no responsibility for a lack of a clear game plan and effective approach. AB should face the most balls, Steyn should open the bowling (only needs to bowl one over - how often have we seen him get wickets in his first over in the IPL?) and there is no place for Albie Morkel!

  • moshe on April 8, 2014, 11:17 GMT

    The fact that Duminy and A. Morkel opened the bowling pretty much lost the match for us. We should have opened with Steyn and Parnell and tried to get some early wickets and build up so pressure. Instead Steyn came in after 2 over with 2o plus runs on the board and SA already having to play catch up. Faf's captaincy in the WT20 was nothing short of atrocious, bowled wrong bowlers at wrong times, and defensive in every aspect. SA should've restricted India in the semi, If India had batted 1st and made those runs there is no way we would've chased it down.

  • Alan on April 8, 2014, 8:54 GMT

    Domingo is over analysing. T20 clearly calls for your best batsman either opening or at 3. AB isn't that batsman in RCB, but he is in the Proteas. Case closed.

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