Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A change is gonna come, Ottis.




Ottis Gibson wants to continue, Faf du Plessis wants Ottis Gibson to continue, CSA might even want Ottis Gibson to continue, but does that mean that Gibson should indeed continue? To call the last two years of South African cricket a roller-coaster would be an understatement. For a while the boy have shamed us with embarrassing world cup performances, and back to back whitewashes at the hands of Sri Lanka of all countries, they have shown glimpses of genuinely good and exciting cricket.

It is easy to forget, such is the fickle nature of fandom, but the Proteas have had sustained moments of genuine success over the last two years. They beat India, who were the world #1 side, at home with a Test to spare. They beat Australia at home for the first time in 47 years. They whitewashed Pakistan at home in the Tests. With the white ball, the picture is even prettier. South Africa went into the world cup having lost only one ODI series under Gibson. That is a seriously impressive record.

All that said, however, it should not be forgotten that the largest reason CSA gave for hiring Ottis Gibson was due to his record in ICC tournaments. Gibson helped the West Indies win their first world cup of any sort in 33 years when he coached them to the World T20 in 2012. It is fair then, to look at the absolute debacle that was the 2019 World Cup when deciding whether or not to renew Gibson's contract for another 2 years. For starters, South Africa only won three games. Two of them when they were already eliminated from the competition proper, and the only "live" rubber they won was against Afghanistan. Absolutely no disrespect to Afghanistan, but that is not good enough. That is big picture, the details look a lot worse. We'll ignore the batting because that supposedly isn't really his department. Lets's talk about the bowling. We can discuss how the Proteas were without Dale Steyn for the entirety of the World Cup, which is fair. We can discuss how injuries robbed Lungi Ngidi of a chance to get into any sort of sustained rhythm during the World Cup, which is again fair. But the cold hard truth is that South Africa had the least effective bowling attack in the tournament, and our coach was our bowling coach! You can't separate the two in any meaningful way. His failures as a bowling coach are by definition his failures as a coach overall. Dwaine Pretorius bowled all of seven over in the first game before being dropped for Chris Morris. In the last two games he bowled 16 overs for 52 runs and 4 wickets. Why was he dropped? Was there anyone in the arena who thought him going at 6 an over was unacceptable? Was it the selectors decision? Surely the selectors would have spoken to the coach first? If not, they might have spoken to the bowling coach. But the bowling coach and the coach are the same person, so someone, anyone must have discussed this with Gibson?

Gibson appears to be a good bowling coach, and whatever you think of T20, he did win a world cup in it, managing maybe the most complex to manage team in world cricket. But given the parameters of his job, and the expectations that went into hiring him, it is hard to see his time with the Proteas as anything but a failure.

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