Johannesburg - If his days as a player are anything to go by, new coach Ottis Gibson should bring a hardened edge to the Proteas.
This is according to Piet Botha, who was a younger team-mate when the West Indian played for Border, during the time in his career when he chased the South African and English summers as a gun for hire.
After protracted negotiations to prise him from his contract as England’s bowling coach, Cricket SA (CSA) finally announced the 48-year-old as Russell Domingo’s successor until after the 2019 World Cup.
Botha shared the influence Gibson had on Border as their overseas professional in the 1990s.
“As a player, he was quite dynamic to our environment,” said the former Warriors’ coach.
“He set high standards, he was always at practice and came hard at us as youngsters. We got harder as a team as a result.
“He’s got that street fighter’s attitude about him. In the nets, he was quite aggressive and got people out of their comfort zones. He never pitched up and made it easy for any of us, but, in the team environment, he was a fun man
to have around – he was a good team man.”
The Barbadian’s appointment has been received with the fear and loathing that is reserved for foreign coaches in South African sport, despite his having played for three provinces in the country – he also played for Griqualand West and Gauteng.
A prominent former rugby player, who wouldn’t necessarily know his reverse sweep from his switch hit, asked if there wasn’t anybody better in South Africa for the job. While not willing to predict the future, Botha chose to go the philosophical route as to whether his old team-mate was the right man for the job.
“That’s why they go through the process with a panel and different committees. You need to know what you want as a country and as a team, and if a guy ticks those boxes, you take him,” Botha said.
“The fact that he’s played in South Africa is an advantage, and having coached internationally is an advantage. While he was a bowling coach with England, he worked with different coaches, which means that, after a while, he will have learnt what works for him under different circumstances.”
According to a CSA insider, the panel charged with finding the right person for the job said Gibson had impressed with his presentation and his track record as a coach. The West Indies were tough to beat under him, and his structures are credited with the islands becoming world Under-19, T20 and women’s champions.
Former West Indian all-rounder Phil Simmons, who was also interviewed for the job, apparently gave Gibson kudos. Those who had played under him had nothing but positive feedback on the kind of coach he is.
One such player was England opening bowler Stuart Broad – a man who strikes one as never having complimented another soul in his life, unless said soul was in the mirror. He claimed Gibson knows his bowling action better than he does.
Gibson has an interesting personal history in the game, in that the impression created is that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time – while he would have played many games for the current Windies teams, he couldn’t catch more than two tests and 15 one-day internationals in the great teams of the past.
But he’s had his highlights at domestic cricket level.
In 1999, he helped unfashionable Griquas win their only domestic limited overs title by hitting 76 off 52 balls.
Eight years later, he helped Durham win their maiden limited overs title, also taking all 10 of Hampshire’s wickets in one county cricket encounter.
The latter achievement was made after he retired from the game, got his coaching badges in England but was retrenched, which meant a comeback to the game.
And a great sign that he is a different thinker is his response to the idea that basketball has overtaken cricket as the most popular sport in the West Indies.
His response to Wisden at the time was: “Name me one famous West Indian basketballer.”