Russell Domingo faces a true baptism of fire when he leads the Proteas to Sri Lanka later this month for five One Day Internationals and three T20 internationals, in his first series as head coach of all formats since Gary Kirsten stepped down at the end of the Champions Trophy.
Domingo was handed the reigns of the T20 side in December 2012 and currently has a 50% record in five matches. His first series was against New Zealand at home, which the Proteas won 2-1. The next outing against Pakistan resulted in a 1-0 loss, after the first match was abandoned, but it must be stated that the teams selected for these two series was as much of an experimental side than anything else, as the Proteas’ brainstrust were looking to expand the talent base in both the T20 and ODI sides.
For Domingo to take on Sri Lanka in their own backyard in his first outing as head coach, is a very tricky one. The Proteas do not have the greatest record on the Island, as they have not won an ODI in 20 years! Their last tour in 2006 resulted in the team coming home shorlty before the first match was due to take place after a bomb blast went off in Colombo, killing four soldiers and four civillians, which resulted in the tri-nation series, which included India, to be abondoned.
Their previous tours in 2004 and 2000 were unsuccessful in the shorter formats, having lost all five ODI’s in 2004 and all three matches in 2000. Their only victory in an ODI was way back in 1993, when South Africa won the toss and elected to bat first, making 222 for seven in their 50 overs. Current national convenor of selectors, Andrew Hudson, top-scored with 48 with Jonty Rhodes making 43. Sanath Jayasuriya proved to be a tricky customer with the ball, taking 4-53 in his 10 overs.
In response, the Sri Lankans were bundled out for just 98, thanks to Fanie de Villiers (2-15 in 10) and Brian McMillan (3-12 in five). McMillan picked up the man-of-the-match award after scoring 35 in the South African innings. Besides Hudson, the only other person who will be travelling with the squad that was involved in that solitary victory is Allan Donald, who claimed two wickets in the match.
Considering the current state of affairs within the South African ODI and T20 teams, it is difficult to imagine the Proteas coming away with anything from the tour. South Africa’s dominance in Test cricket will not be utilised as there are no Test matches scheduled. South Africa had a below-par and disappointing Champions Tropy, with only one victory against a rather disappointing Pakistan side. The loss to India and fortunate tie against the West Indies saw the South Africans playing against England in the semi-final. Some might say that the Proteas ‘choked’ again in a knock-out game, but the fact remains that the Proteas were just not good enough and could count themselves lucky to reach the knock-out phase.
Sri Lanka have shown how destructive they can be after they thumped the current World and Champions Trophy winners, India, in the West Indies recently.
Unless Domingo can pick the best squad possible, and get those players to gel into a cohesive unit fast, the only thing that the new coach can expect, is another humiliating 5-0 defeat! The only victories that the Proteas could look at getting will be in the T20 matches, as anybody knows, T20 games are a complete lottery.