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Amla insists coach talk is no distraction

Hashim Amla has not sensed any change in Russell Domingo or his coaching staff AFP

News that South Africa's coach Russell Domingo will have to reapply for his job if he hopes to continue in the role after the team's tour of England in August resulted in "a few sad hours in the changeroom" according to ODI captain AB de Villiers but fellow senior figure Hashim Amla said he has not noticed any change in approach from the coaching staff.

Domingo has a support staff of five: assistant Adi Birrell, bowling coach Charl Langeveldt, batting coach Neil McKenzie, spin consultant Claude Henderson and fitness trainer Greg King, whose deals are tied to his and as a result, they will also face contract renegotiation later this year, but none of them have appeared distracted.

"It hasn't affected the coaches too much. They still seem extremely motivated, which is brilliant. They have been professional in everything they have done," Amla said ahead of the second ODI against Sri Lanka in Durban. "Don't forget it's still six or seven months away, which is a long time. In between that, we have so many different challenges to keep our focus on."

Chief among those is the Champions Trophy, which will doubtless have some bearing on whether Domingo wants to stay on and whether Cricket South Africa's board will be keen on keeping him. If South Africa win the competition, it is almost a given Domingo will be in demand, especially as he is already the man who has achieved the most with the team at a major tournament.

He was the first coach to oversee a South African victory in a 50-over World Cup knockout match, when they beat Sri Lanka in the quarter-final in 2015, and even though Domingo has not had the same success at World T20s with the 2019 World Cup looming, a strong showing at the Champions Trophy could stand him in good stead for a new two-year term.

But the trophy drought has proved a nemesis for so many and no-one has yet come up with the answer to break the hoodoo. Like his predecessors, Domingo's plans are focused on meticulous preparation - South Africa are regularly the team who have played the most matches in the months leading up to a major tournament - and so far, they seem to be working.

"If you look at the build-up we have had as a team, winning the last series [against Australia] as convincingly as we did and being 1-0 up here, it's building very well," Amla said. "The coaches and the captains have tried to put the structures in place for us to succeed and it's really pleasing that everything is working really well."

Amla has been part of all this before though, and knows that even the best laid plans can be derailed on the day, when pressure takes hold. In South Africa's case, the major tournament bug has most often bitten their batsmen, who have botched modest chases - think Dhaka 2011. Then, South Africa's line-up contained at least some inexperience. This time, it is unlikely to have any with all of the top six senior figures and all of them in decent nick.

"The batting line up looks really solid. Quinny is one of the best, Faf has been in very good form, AB is a legend, JP is batting well, everybody has been contributing," Amla said.

However, even with things go as well as they could, South Africa have every reason to be cautious and not to get ahead of themselves. "Nobody is under the illusion that everything is hunky-dory and things are just going to keep going up and up. There will be some challenges inbetween here and the Champions Trophy and if that comes, we've got to be patient with it go through it," Amla said.

The waiting game is something Amla was forced to become well-versed in over the last few months when he went through a rare lean patch in the lead up to his 100th Test. Amla went 13 Test innings without a century before bringing up three figures in his milestone match to end speculation that the end was nigh. He has since topped up on that with a 57 in the first ODI and is feeling like his old self, with no intention of slowing down.

"Sometimes you go through those patches. If I can think back, there are other players, much better players, Tendulkar, those guys, they have been through similar. That's the nature of the game," he said. "I take it as it comes. I try not to plan too far ahead. Whether its 100 Tests or 50 Tests, the fact that I am playing international cricket is what motivates me. I enjoy batting and I enjoy playing for the country. I feel very fresh. I still feel 18."