Domingo, 40, may been unsuccessful in bringing the World Cup home last March from Australia and New Zealand, but he has already surpassed Kirsten’s achievements with the Proteas by ensuring the national team entrenched their status as the premier Test side in the world.
And now CSA have placed their faith in him for a further two years. We caught up with him this week to discuss the journey thus far, the challenges that lie ahead and the aftermath of that World Cup ODI semi-final in Auckland …
Question: How much confidence do you take from the fact that the CSA board extended your contract despite not having returned with the World Cup?
Answer: I think the fact that the team has been consistent in both Test and ODI cricket was probably taken into consideration. I am not one to look far ahead, but it is good to know that you have the faith of your employers. However, the pressure doesn’t dissipate because you have been handed an extension. Every series has new pressures and there are a couple of big ones ahead.
Q: You were very much an under-the-radar type of guy before taking over from Gary Kirsten. Obviously you have been in the spotlight since, has that changed you at all in the type of person you have developed into?
A: I would like to think I am still the same person. I think the potential for you to change as an individual is there, because you need to be a lot more guarded with what you say and who you say it to. The scrutiny is on you all the time but I would like to think I have kept my close relationships intact.
Q: Many of the senior players regard you as one of the nicest coaches they have worked with throughout their careers. Can a coach be a “Mr Nice Guy” or does he sometimes have to take a hard stance that will not endear him?
A: I think you need to be true to the person that you are. I am a relaxed, chilled type of guy and I like to create that type of energy around me in my workplace. And I think the players feed off that and hopefully they can perform to the best of their abilities in that environment. In terms of ‘raising your voice’, of course there are moments when it is required. Players must know where the line is, but again if you are working in an environment where there is mutual trust, then that comes naturally.
Q: More and more international teams are placing their faith in coaches who haven’t played Test cricket like yourself, or for example England with Trevor Bayliss. Why do you think there is a movement away from coaches specifically having Test experience?
A: I don’t think there has been a specific move away from ex-players becoming coaches. I think it is more that ex-players know the pressures of international cricket and want to step away from it for a while. So, I don’t think there is a movement away from coaches with international experience but more that ex-players don’t want to coach.
Q: What was the mood like in the dressing room at Eden Park that semi-final night and who was the first person to speak up and what did you actually say to the guys afterwards?
A: It was if someone had died. And that’s not an exaggeration or an over-used cliché! It was just quiet and sombre, even for a couple of days afterwards before we left Auckland. Not much needed to be said, other than to remind the guys of the impeccable way they had served their country on and off the field during the Cup.
Q: Needless to say that was your biggest disappointment, but what do you regard as your biggest achievement thus far?
A: Doing the “double” in Sri Lanka was massive. Going there and winning both the Test and ODI series, that is something I am particularly proud of.
Q: Is there anything harder in international cricket than telling a player he is going to be left out of a team?
A: That is tough, but I think the constant scrutiny you are under as an international coach is something that takes a while to become accustomed to. There is an ever-present commentary from the media and the public.
That can become tiring after a while. I think that’s a bit harder to get used to than leaving a player out of a team.
Q: As a coach of colour, is there any extra pressures on you to ensure CSA’s transformation policy is carried out?
A: I don’t think there is any extra pressure on me than there would be on any other coach coming in.
Do I know what is expected of me? Of course I do, but my primary job is to win cricket matches and that will always remain my No 1 priority.
Q: What would you regard as your biggest strength, and why?
A: Honesty. Also, I think my ability to get on with people and build relationships with people is important. But I come back to honesty. My players know they can trust me because I will always be open and honest with them.
Q: I am glad that you brought up “honesty”. Was that SMS ever sent to you ahead of the World Cup semi-final to you?
A: No. There was never an SMS sent to me. That’s the long and short of it, and has been dealt with.
Q: The Proteas’ next major ICC global event is the World T20 in March next year in India. Do you think our T20 cricket is lagging behind the rest of the world and what areas have you identified that needs improvement?
A: I definitely think we are lagging behind. We need to look at major areas within our game. The way we approach the powerplays with power-hitters at the top of the order. Our death bowling has been a concern for a long time, and also especially unorthodox bowling, particularly in the spin department, and also seam.
Take Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga, for example. We need to look at developing guys like that because we are not on par with the rest of the world in T20 cricket.
Q: You seem to have potentially addressed the death-bowling issue with the recruitment of Charl Langeveldt as your new bowling coach. What are you expecting “Langes” to bring to the Proteas’ environment?
A: Charl had plenty of skill and was a renowned death-bowler. He also has a lot of street-smartness about him, in terms of having played all over the world and developed ways and means to be successful in all conditions.
His input will be invaluable when it comes to the death-bowling and also how he helps the next generation of South African fast bowlers. There will be a lot of young pacemen joining the Proteas over the next years and they are going to need all the guidance they can get, and I believe Charl is the right man to do that. - Saturday StarScepticism was rife when Cricket South Africa appointed Russell Domingo to take charge of the Proteas two ago.
Original source: Q and A with Proteas coach Russell Domingo