Proteas are fresh and raring to go
Adrian Birrell is pretty clear, despite South Africa’s success at Trent Bridge on Monday and his role in it, he wants no part of being the team’s head coach.
“I’m a stand-in head coach, that’s it,” he quipped. He did a heck of a job in the absence of his boss and close friend Russell Domingo. “We prepared the same way we have in all other Test matches we just did exactly the same thing, there was no panic after the Lord’s Test. The feedback from the players was that we’d prepared very well at Lord’s but we played poorly,” said Birrell.
While he, the rest of the coaching staff and the senior players took on extra responsibility in preparing for the second Test, Birrell said Domingo remained in touch on a daily basis. “He was involved from afar. It’s tough, losing your mother. He’s had a tough few days, he had to do the eulogy at the service. He’s had a tough time, our thoughts have been with him. As he said it was fantastic for him sitting on his couch watching us win.”
It hasn’t been an easy tour for South Africa. The One-Day portion was poor, the exit from the Champions Trophy limp and the T20s messy. The Lord’s performance was dreadful. Off the field, Domingo has had to deal with tragedy, on it there was that silly suspension for Kagiso Rabada. The mystery over who will be the next coach has not made matters any easier, but Birrell explained the coaching staff has been able to ignore that “outside noise” even as it may impact on their future employment.
Cricket South Africa’s board meets this week to determine who will coach the Proteas after this tour. “The Board’s decision not on anyone’s mind at all,” said Birrell.
“There’s been a lot of uncertainty for many months, I don’t think it’s affected the players and it certainly hasn’t affected the management. We just got on and tried to do the job as best we could. We speak lot about not bringing outside influences into our inner circle – we work very hard at that.”
The return of skipper, Faf Du Plessis was profound. His calmness, the simple messages to the players and coaching staff provided focus that was missing at Lord’s. “This is his team, he’s very much in charge. His leadership is very strong and very calm. He demands in a very pleasant way that players really perform for the team. He never gets angry, obviously he gets upset, but doesn’t show that to the team, he’s very strong leader of this group.”
The lengthy break – made longer by South Africa wrapping up the Trent Bridge Test inside of four days – between the second and third Tests is one the Proteas players and coaching staff can enjoy. Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock and batting coach Neil McKenzie have headed back home while the likes of Vernon Philander are polishing their golf games.
Quite what impact the break will have on the players, is unknown. Some have said they would have preferred the team to be playing this week, to crack on and maintain rhythm and momentum. Birrell sees some positives. “Our teams are very good when they are fresh, we need to be fresh to play our best cricket, that’s been proven.”
They will regather and start preparations for The Oval Test next Monday.
“We are quite excited that we’ve got KG (Rabada) in the sheds, itching to go, well rested it might be great in hindsight that he had a bit of a rest,” Birrell quipped.
And how will that preparation be handled? “When we regroup we will be boring and prepare in the same way we did earlier.”