South Africa leave mind games behind

South Africa took what seemed like everything any team would want when they left for the World Cup, except one thing. Apart from the obvious - 15 players with all their kit - they have a support staff that includes a head coach, an assistant coach, a former coach, three different bowling coaches, a fitness coach, a physiotherapist, a logistics manager, a team manager, a media manager, a security manager and a video analyst. Who is missing? A psychologist.

"We're not taking one," Russell Domingo said. "I've tried to approach this World Cup as though we are approaching any other series. We've been playing really good cricket without the services of a mental coach over the last year and a bit, so why create the anxiety when we've been doing so well without it. This team is mentally in a better state than it's ever been. They've won games in high-pressure situations under different conditions at different venues. They've got a pride in performance, they are passionately led by a captain who plays with his heart on his sleeve. All the blocks are in place to overcome those mental challenges that we are going to face."

The days of mental conditioning, Paddy Upton-style are behind South Africa. Even though they consulted with Henning Gericke, the man who worked with the national rugby team on their triumph at the 2007 World Cup and was used by the cricket side in 2011 as well, they are focusing on the bigger picture rather than emphasising the World Cup as an all-or-nothing event.

"I am trying to downplay the importance of this World Cup," Domingo said. "It's massively important, we know that from the public perception but for us, it's just business as usual. I am hoping my wife still loves me after the World Cup if I come back having not won a World Cup, and I am hoping she loves me the exactly same if we come back having won the World Cup.

"There's so much that happens in life and there are so many unfortunate people that my happiness as a person shouldn't depend on whether I win a World Cup. It would be great to win it, we are desperate to win and we will do everything we can to do it but there are also more important things in life."

Things like visiting a young child whose dream it was to meet Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn, AB de Villiers, Vernon Philander and play street cricket with him and his friends. That's what the quintet did last week. Things like starting a foundation to focus on the development of young cricketers in an underprivileged community. That's what JP Duminy did last week. Things like spending time with a new-born daughter, a la Rilee Rossouw, or a loving pack of dogs, Steyn-style.

South Africa's cricket-life balance must be the envy of other sides, who sometimes find themselves training while South Africa sightsee. But is an approach that has worked because when it is time to work, South Africa know how to do exactly that.

At this World Cup, their two areas of concern are middle-order batting and death-bowling and they are specifically addressing both. Michael Hussey will be used as a consultant in Sydney to work with some of the batsmen and Charl Langeveldt is travelling along with Allan Donald and Claude Henderson to help coach the bowlers. Hussey's involvement has been described by Domingo as "low-key" but important. "He is going to be very much in the background," Domingo said. "It's important for him to connect with some of our middle-order batters - he is a middle-order batter of immense experience, he is a World Cup winner, he knows conditions and I am excited by the possibility of him joining us."

Although South Africa will be drawing on Hussey mid-competition, Domingo does not think that speaks to any problems with their preparation. Of all the teams at the competition, South Africa had the longest lead-up period, which dated back to July last year. They have played 24 ODIs and won series in Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and at home; their defeat in Australia has been considered part of the learning curve. Everything, Domingo believes, is in place. Everything including the mindset.

"I'm happy with the time we spent at home, competing on our home shores, finalising a few things with our structure of play and heading over there with a fresh attitude."