‘AB is one of the best, but the game goes on’

Russell Domingo, who coached the Proteas to the semifinals of World Cup 2015, is going a few extra miles to prepare a solid bench.

The void left by AB de Villiers (left) may be hard to fill, but Russell Domingo admits “nobody is irreplaceable.”   -  PTI

Three years ago, when New Zealand batsman Grant Elliot smashed Dale Steyn over long-on for a six to stretch the Kiwi adventure from Auckland to Melbourne in the World Cup semifinal, Russell Domingo could envisage the end of the tunnel.

Domingo, the then Proteas head coach, had a strong team at his disposal. But the World Cup jinx struck again. Last year, Cricket South Africa roped in Ottis Gibson as head coach, but Domingo was not fully relieved of his duties. Since then, the 43-year-old has been furnishing the bench strength and building cricketers for the future as the A-team coach.

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Currently in India for the two-match Test series against India A, the seasoned campaigner — who earned a sports administration and marketing degree at 25 — opens up to Sportstar on South Africa’s quest against spin in the subcontinent, supplying players for the senior team and World Cup 2019 sans AB de Villiers.

Excerpts…

Q. You have been with the senior South African team for quite a long time, what is your vision for the A team?

A. We don’t play a lot of A games, and India just came back from a long tour of England. We probably won’t be playing for another year after these two games. We should start playing more and get a nucleus of players for the national side, who I think are capable enough to play at that level. The idea is to try and bridge the gap between domestic cricket and international cricket. The sooner we can do that, the better. We should make these players understand the transition from domestic cricket to international cricket.

That, I believe, involves an all-round development keeping in mind the nerves required to deliver at that level...

There is a huge difference in the two levels. With my learning and experience, I will tell them what to do physically and mentally to be ready for the higher level.

Tabraiz Shamsi utilised his training at the spin camp in India to adapt to Sri Lankan conditions, notes Domingo. Photo: AFP

 

Cricket South Africa organised a spin camp for some of the A players in Mumbai earlier this year, how was that experience?

It was fantastic. Our spinners learnt more about the subcontinent conditions. Tabraiz Shamsi, who was there, used the experience to do well in Sri Lanka recently. Leg-spinner Shaun von Borg and Senuran Muthusamy — the slow left-arm bowler — were there as well. Zubayr Hamza, who scored 63 in the first Test of this series, learnt how to bat to spinners in such conditions. None of these players had been to the subcontinent that much. So it was massively valuable. We wanted to understand the wickets, the country and also, the culture.

The camp was right after Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal’s spin magic that helped India beat South Africa in the limited-overs series…

(Laughs) It’s just a coincidence. It has been happening for the last six or seven years. It’s not a new thing. There is a lot of cricket being played in the subcontinent and we want to do better here. If you are not equipped to deal with the challenges, you will be found out.

How would you analyse South Africa’s performance in Sri Lanka? They were thrashed in the Tests...

I didn’t watch too much of Test cricket, but they played good One Day International cricket. Sri Lanka, with its fantastic bowlers, is a tough side to beat at home. The Test result was disappointing, but I am sure the players have learnt from the experience. I am sure they will improve.

How much will South Africa miss AB de Villiers in World Cup 2019?

AB is one of the best ever but the game goes on. Nobody is irreplaceable, as you have seen with so many teams. Somebody else will come in and do well. J. P. Duminy, Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, David Miller — it is a great line-up. India and England will obviously be the favourites but I feel it is better to go into a tournament not as a frontrunner. But South Africa may just be even when it comes to knockouts; anything can happen in knockout cricket.