De Villiers injury due to workload: Domingo

23 September 2016

Proteas coach reinforces his belief that his star performers are playing too much cricket in too many competitions

The injury cloud hovering over his star batsman AB de Villiers has prompted South Africa coach Russell Domingo to step up his plea for curbs to be placed on the amount of cricket his most valuable senior players are able to sign up for.

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De Villiers will learn on Tuesday whether the impingement syndrome injury that is causing excruciating pain in his left elbow will require surgery, a procedure that would sideline him for up to eight weeks and rule him out of South Africa's upcoming Test tour of Australia.

The news came less than three months after Domingo blamed non-stop playing schedules and relentless workloads as a reason for the Proteas' drastic form slump over the past year.

And just weeks after Australia captain Steve Smith copped criticism when Cricket Australia convinced him to withdraw early from the recent limited-overs series in Sri Lanka and return to Sydney for a rest period ahead of a jam-packed summer schedule over coming months.

While Smith also had his stint with Indian Premier League franchise the Pune Supergiants cut short due to a wrist injury, de Villiers – five years the Australia skipper's senior – has maintained an exhausting schedule over the past 12 months that would appear to have finally taken a toll.

Since the start of September 2015, de Villiers has played eight Tests (in India and South Africa), 16 ODIs (India, South Africa and West Indies) and 10 T20 Internationals (India and South Africa), as well as 21 appearances for T20 Premier League franchises in India and the Caribbean.

On top of countless training sessions, domestic cricket commitments and autographing copies of his recently released autobiography.

The declining value of South Africa's rand has led a bulk of their most senior players to seek the riches offered by T20 franchise competitions in India, the Caribbean and the UK when they can be squeezed in between their increasingly prevalent international duties.

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With the currency issue also ensuring that South Africa, more than most rival Test playing nations, has a core of experienced players who choose to represent their country in all three formats – Tests, ODIs and T20 Internationals.

But in the wake of his team's failure to reach the final of the ODI tri-series against Australia and the West Indies in the Caribbean earlier this year and their recent fall from number one to number five in the world Test rankings, Domingo called for limitations to be placed on his match winners.

Not directly to limit their earning capacity as professional cricketers, but to ensure they remained fit and fresh to turn out for the Proteas, who face a gruelling schedule that takes them to Australia, New Zealand and the UK over the next year as well as series against Australia and Sri Lanka at home.

He voiced his concerns upon return from the tri-series in the West Indies last July, when de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and David Miller all remained behind to fit in a handful of appearances in the Caribbean Premier League.

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At the time, Domingo called on Cricket South Africa to examine the workloads that players were shouldering beyond their international commitments but dismissed suggestions that de Villiers should be rested from the two-Test series against New Zealand in August to help lighten his load.

As it turned out, the 32-year-old missed those matches at Durban and Centurion as a result of his elbow injury and the failure of the ailment to respond to rest, physiotherapy and "aggressive rehabilitation" means he might now be sidelined until December.

A prognosis that ensures that recommendations from Cricket South Africa's medical committee will carry the greatest weight when the governing body reviews their stance on No Objection Certificates, the means by which contracted players are freed to play in offshore competitions.

"I'm not saying I said so, but when I said so after the West Indies tour I took a beating from a lot of people in the public and in the media saying 'what a lot of crap, these blokes should be playing left, right and centre and they should be winning in any case'," a clearly frustrated Domingo said yesterday as the severity of de Villiers' injury was confirmed.

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"There's no doubt that guys are playing too many games, too many formats, too many competitions and I'm saying that again.

"At the end of the day, we as a national side sit with issues because we're sort of keeping guys fit to go and play in other tournaments and that sometimes can be a bit painful for me.

"So I'm saying it again, I definitely think our guys are playing too many formats and something needs to be done about it."

As Smith discovered when his decision to return home early from Sri Lanka was scrutinised and criticised, players who yield to advice about management of their workload often find themselves at the heart of a no-win argument.

Domingo found that earlier this year when South Africa opted to rest strike bowler Steyn from the tri-series in the Caribbean only to have the 33-year-old sign on for a stint with Glamorgan's T20 franchise in the UK.

So the South Africa coach could sympathise with his rival team's captain when the decision to send Smith home from Colombo was met with scorn, much of it driven by the timing of the announcement more so than the logic that underpinned it.

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"Only the coaches and the management and the players within the group will know why he's been rested," Domingo said of the call to grant Smith a break prior to the current tour of South Africa.

"You want your best players playing all the time, there's no doubt about that.

"I would love Dale Steyn, (Vernon) Philander, de Villiers, Amla playing every single game, but it's impossible with the amount of cricket that's being played.

"So when those decisions get made, it's not just 'what do you think, let's give this sook a holiday', there's a bit of thought that takes place to it because we know how much cricket is going to be played after that.

"I have forwarded a report and a list of concerns that is going to be addressed (by the CSA executive), but I know sometimes it is bigger than me and bigger than Cricket South Africa.

"It might be something that the ICC might need to look into but I'm sure something will be done and discussed and tabled in the next couple of months."

Meg Lanning Steve Smith

About the Writer


Andrew Ramsey is the senior writer for He previously wrote for the Guardian, The Australian, The Times, The Telegraph, The Hindu and Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack and the author of The Wrong Line.

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