For over a decade the Proteas have battled with slow starts on tours, both home and away, and the tendency has been to address the issue by gathering together earlier than has been custom to shake off rust – especially when no serious, competitive cricket had been played for a significant period of time. International cricket, that is.
The Proteas’ decision to gather together on the day of departure for Bangladesh may be seen as a retrograde step. It appears to ignore the lessons learned, often painfully, over many recent years.
The good news is that the lessons are not being ignored or forgotten. Coach Russell Domingo, like his predecessor Gary Kirsten, believes that the best preparation takes place in the head rather than in nets and has continued the ‘modern trend’ of highlighting the value of rest.
“I believe we have put that to bed. It is something we have spoken about in great detail over the past year or so and results have shown than we have overcome that perceived slowness to get going in series,” Domingo said this week.
“There isn’t much we can do regarding preparation. The schedule has been worked out, so we have a T20 warm-up game scheduled in Bangladesh as well as the normal net sessions and middle practice sessions. We aren’t taking Bangladesh lightly. They are playing extremely well and have been involved in a few big series, including beating India, so we need to be on top of our game from the outset,” Domingo said.
The most significant change in attitude in recent years is the acceptance of the IPL as part of the South African cricketing landscape. From ‘resentment’ it has moved to ‘acceptance’ and now ‘accommodation.’ These days, if the Proteas haven’t played for four or five months but they are tired after two months of IPL hectivity, they are allowed to rest. It may not sit easily with the fans, but that’s the way it is.
“Our players will be coming off a good month of rest,” Domingo said. “If we play week in and week out, the players are jaded. If you have a month or two off then the players are rusty… you can’t win. So it is what it is. We just need to prepare well for five days and get straight back into it, that’s the bottom line.”
Team manager Doc Mohammad Moosajee has been around longer than any of the players and has witnessed not just one transition but half a dozen. He is a pragmatist: “With the sheer volume of International Cricket commitments, the challenge is always going to be balancing time off against preparation as we plan for a long and busy season ahead.
“The time away from the game has been much needed especially for the guys that go to the IPL every year. We hardly get a good break at home and have a lot of cricket coming up this season so, mentally, it’s great that we’ve had time off.”
The Bangladesh tour begins with two T20s and is followed by three ODIs and two Test matches. T20 captain Faf du Plessis is, therefore, most likely to be caught with his team’s pants down. “Gone are the days when you go over there and just expect to beat them…
“Bangladesh has had some great success in recent times and it’s going to be a nice challenge for us, and one that I’m certainly looking forward to,” du Plessis said.
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