Town - The Proteas come
home from their tour of Sri Lanka with more questions than answers, but
coach Ottis Gibson remains
adamant that the side has taken significant steps towards becoming a
title-challenging outfit at the 2019 World Cup in England.
The two Test matches did not go
South Africa's way and they were completely outplayed, but the priority has
been the World Cup for most of Gibson's year-long tenure at the helm of the
In the ODI series, South Africa
emerged as 3-2 winners and played some good cricket in the process, but they fell
apart in the final two ODIs and then again in Tuesday's T20I where they fell to a
3-wicket defeat after having no answer to the Sri Lankan spinners.
There were some selection tweaks
for the final three matches of the tour, and Gibson has explained
that the long-term goal of winning in 2019 has taken preference over
"Our focus for the last six
or eight months has been trying to get ready for the World Cup," Gibson
said following the sole T20I in Colombo.
The Proteas went into the limited
overs leg of their Sri Lankan tour without Imran Tahir, who Gibson says is
still the first-choice spinner for 2019, while they also left Dale Steyn out of
the mix completely following a difficult run in the Tests.
Looking ahead, Gibson has a good
idea of what the World Cup squad will look like.
"I feel like right now we
have 10 spots out of 15," he said.
"We brought a very
inexperienced line-up here. It's not so much on purpose, but also about who is
available. (Chris) Morris is injured, we felt Dale (Steyn) going back and
playing some county cricket would be good for him."
The decision to go to Sri Lanka
without Tahir meant that Gibson could have a look at what Tabraiz Shamsi and
Keshav Maharaj could offer in the ODI format.
"We know what Dale can do in
ODI cricket and we know what Tahir can do," Gibson explained.
"We told Tahir that he is
our No 1, but it gave us an opportunity to see Shamsi and Maharaj and I think
Shamsi has been brilliant on this tour. We left out Shamsi in the last two ODIs
to give Kesh an opportunity and we've seen both of them now and we have to make
a decision on whether we're going to take two spinners to the World Cup."
Winning in Sri Lanka, Gibson
added, was never the priority.
South Africa, for all of its
cricketing might since 1992, has never lifted a World Cup trophy. That, right
now, is more important than anything.
"I'm happy with where the
side is going, of course I'm not happy to lose and I'm sure the people watching
back home aren't happy, but from the get-go we said it wasn't about winning for
us," Gibson said.
"If it was all about winning
for us we would have brought guys like Tahir and so on. Winning a series in Sri
Lanka right now doesn't give us a strong indicator of where we are going into
the World Cup.
"When we sit down to pick a
World Cup squad now, we can sit down and say that we've seen these guys and
they're not ready yet.
"We've answered some
questions and we've got some questions we're still not sure about."
The Proteas are next in action
when they host Zimbabwe in the first of three ODIs in Kimberley on September