So who aids Gibson on SA’s ‘bridge’?

2017-08-31 12:22
Charl Langeveldt (Gallo)

Cape Town – At first thought, current pace-bowling coach Charl Langeveldt might seem the likeliest sacrifice as new Proteas head coach Ottis Gibson shapes his back-up team.

That specific area of responsibility, after all, is the very one Barbadian-born, former West Indies seamer Gibson had charge of in two generally productive tenures with England and is understandably regarded as his forte.

But would that necessarily mean he will want to take noticeably active personal responsibility in that area?

As overall supremo (on an initial two-year deal), one of his earliest challenges will be to reveal his pedigree in the other departments of the game as well, so any preoccupation with the quickies in the Proteas’ ranks might not be to his benefit, despite his natural instincts to get eagerly involved there.

If that proves the case, then former SA “blockhole” specialist Langeveldt may survive – assuming that Gibson and perhaps others in authority are satisfied with his track record after succeeding Allan Donald in the mantle in mid-2015.

Particularly in relation to the Test team for some time, the bowling unit as a whole has been less of a thorny issue than the inconsistency and certain positional frailties in the batting order, something that undoubtedly applied when South Africa were soundly beaten 3-1 in the recent series in England.

Injuries and Kolpak-related matters – like the loss of Kyle Abbott to a long-term county deal – have certainly not helped promote desired stability among the pacemen, and during the English tour key seam factor Vernon Philander was dogged by both illness and bodily niggles. 

But discipline-related issues do also flare from time to time on the bowling front: for example, in the vital first Test – lost by 211 runs at Lord’s – both Morne Morkel and, more unusually, left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj took “wickets” only to discover that they had delivered no-balls.

This has been a long-time bugbear of Morkel’s, despite the lanky, seasoned paceman bowling with sustained vigour, control and shrewdness in English conditions over the several months there and in all formats.

South Africa bowled 10 no-balls in total in that particular Test match, to England’s three, when Gibson was still on the home-team balcony.

What of the batting, where another former SA international, Neil McKenzie, has been the dedicated assistant on that front since early 2016, during the head-coaching watch of Gibson’s predecessor Russell Domingo?

It has been problematic, but in McKenzie’s defence, certain extended aftershocks were always likely in the wake of the retirements of former icons – often particularly heavy-scoring ones - like Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith and the unsettled status more recently of AB de Villiers.

McKenzie staying may depend on whether Gibson has anyone else specifically in mind from his own, presumably quite swollen list of friends and gurus he trusts or reveres from his generous global travels.

Also in the Domingo era, South Africa had Adrian Birrell as the general assistant coach – bear in mind that many pundits and CSA figures would like to see Lions coach Geoffrey Toyana (he applied for the senior Proteas berth) drawn in - and Claude Henderson the spin advisor.

In his broadly welcoming response to the appointment of the 48-year-old Gibson, at least one former national captain, Kepler Wessels, who is also pleased the new appointee can choose some of his own back-up staff, said he felt the panel of assistants in the most recent SA set-up has been too bloated.

Whether Gibson himself fancies thinning the support personnel remains to be seen in the weeks leading up to his first challenge against all-formats visitors Bangladesh from the end of September.

*Cricket South Africa has been asked by Sport24 whether any of the existing back-up coaches intend officially withdrawing anyway, ahead of Gibson taking the reins, but awaited a response at the time of writing.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  ottis gibson  |  charl langeveldt  |  cricket


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