Cape Town – By
the time South Africa launch their home international summer with the first ODI
against Zimbabwe at Kimberley on September 30, Ottis Gibson will have just
clicked over into his second year of international obligations with the
It was on
September 29 last year at another less fashionable location, Potchefstroom,
that it all began for the Barbadian: the first of two Tests against Bangladesh,
which his new charges duly won by 333 runs.
further activity scheduled for the national side until their neighbours arrive,
and following completion of the Sri Lankan tour with the sickly once-off
Twenty20 international against Sri Lanka in Colombo on Tuesday, Gibson’s first
year at the helm can now be thoroughly tooth-combed.
He ends it
with a record, across the three formats, of 32 matches played, 18 won and 14 lost - a win success percentage of 56.25.
fair case for saying it is not the worst way statistically to start a contract due
to run, as things stand, until completion of the red-letter task of the 2019 World
Cup in the United Kingdom (late May to July).
were a couple of “easy” foes along the way, but also headline Test series in
quick succession against fellow-heavyweights India and Australia and one, most
recently, on the ever-challenging Subcontinent.
Gibson’s charge, the Proteas also tended - though with some exceptions - in his
first year to peak quite pleasingly when it mattered most, so that should be
borne in mind by any detractors.
those Test series against India and Australia were considered priorities as he
first took the tiller, and both ended up being extremely pleasing triumphs.
in the ODI portion of the just-completed Sri Lankan tour and as the 50-overs
landscape increases in relevance, the Proteas played their best cricket in the first
three matches, closing out the series spoils purposefully.
then slackened off acutely disappointingly in the last two encounters, and
batted quite idiotically in the lone Twenty20 defeat.
blemishes for Gibson, of course, were the 2-0 Test away series thrashing at the
hands of the ‘Lankans, and violent 5-1 ODI home series reverse to India late
watch, the Proteas very successfully blooded Aiden Markram in Test cricket
(though rather less productively in ODIs thus far), and strapping young paceman
Lungi Ngidi across both arenas.
been fairly comforting developments, helping to offset the crippling
retirements of established world-class figures AB de Villiers – his especially
sudden and unexpected -- and Morne Morkel respectively.
Here is a
brief summary of Gibson’s fortunes per format:
P12 W8 L4 – 66.66 win percentage
(Beat Bangladesh 2-0 home, beat
Zimbabwe 1-0 home, beat India 2-1 home, beat Australia 3-1 home, lost to Sri
Lanka 2-0 away … current world ranking 2nd)
the demanding twin task, not too long into his reign, of avenging the
controversial 2015 away Test series hiding from India and then - perhaps even
more importantly - ending the strange pattern of the Proteas not being able to
beat Australia at home in the post-isolation era, despite three rousing away
were handsomely ticked: India were soundly enough beaten at Newlands and
Centurion, before earning a tense dead-rubber consolation win on a particularly
spicy Wanderers surface.
top of the season, however, was the hoodoo-breaking 3-1 triumph over the Baggy
Greens, three ruthless wins (Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Johannesburg) following
that early hiccup in Durban.
Say what you
like about the general fractiousness of the series and the sensational
ball-tampering fiasco that rocked the Aussie camp at Newlands: it was already
clear by then that the Proteas were applying a firm stranglehold.
euphoria over Faf du Plessis’s Test heroes lessened, much more recently, when
seemingly ill-prepared SA were humbled in Sri Lanka; certainly one of their
most wretched, meek surrenders yet in Asia and with the batting frailties
against spin under special scrutiny.
for Dale Benkenstein as his assistant coach for batting needs, and the former
SA ODI player, it is probably fair to say, is yet to thoroughly convince many
observers of his value based on weight of statistical returns at the crease,
across the folds.
Proteas really should prosper anew in the five-day landscape this summer, when
limited Pakistan and the poor-travelling ‘Lankans visit, with shaky records on
P14 W7 L7 – win percentage 50.00
(Beat Bangladesh 3-0 home, lost to
India 5-1 home, beat Sri Lanka 3-2 away … current world ranking 4th)
stuff here: the mixed bag of results certainly bears that out.
you wanted to take a glass-half-full approach you could say that now, some 10
months out, is not a bad time to be well off any “peaking” trend (and the
Proteas undoubtedly are that).
also been clear and unapologetic in his experimental approach, chopping and
changing his combinations liberally and not being shy to blood previously
is – and especially when certain supposedly senior personnel are either injured
or under-delivering – that “depth” still seems an elusive phenomenon.
A host of
inexperienced players (more particularly in the batting plans) seem to fire
promisingly now and then, but also regress into periods of grave doubt about
their longer-term attractiveness to the cause. In short, there are too many
maybes and not enough certainties.
need to start narrowing down their squad pretty soon, although the next series,
at home to weak Zimbabwe, won’t answer too many pressing questions yet, will
also labour through the fact that too many of their frontline bowlers are rank
non-batsmen, something that Gibson and lieutenants have to address quite
backdrop, Vernon Philander, Chris Morris, Dwaine Pretorius … those are names
that probably need to be spiritedly revisited over the next few months.
P6 W3 L3 – win percentage 50.00
(Beat Bangladesh 2-0 home, lost to
India 2-1 home, lost to Sri Lanka 1-0 away … current world ranking 6th)
T20 series (and sometimes they’re just once-off clashes) remain easily the
lowest priorities in gravitas terms.
than not, you’ll hear captains say ahead of them that they’re “a bit of fun”
and an opportunity for a bumper gate or two after - or even before - the
superior tour demands of Tests and ODIs.
50-overs World Cup the next major global get-together, T20 internationals will
only pick up a certain head of steam for importance in the more immediate
lead-up to the next ICC World T20, in Australia in 2020.
moment, the Proteas may be said to be relatively flatlining at the fastest-food
stuff under Gibson … and that batting showing in Colombo on Tuesday was utterly
Final verdict: My overall, year-one
rating for Gibson is an adequate enough 6/10, as attention now turns fiercely to
his bid to bury SA’s deep-rooted World Cup bogey next year …
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