While Cricket South Africa sit and discuss the future of Ottis Gibson, there are a few players and other assistant coaches we should also be discussing. The Proteas head off to India in a few weeks for a tour consisting of 3 T20’s and 3 Test matches. I believe Gibson’s contract comes to an end at the end of September. The tour starts mid-September but goes on until the end of October. A possible scenario is that Gibson is given an extension until then as a last chance saloon, but with news of Geoffrey Toyana joining the Titans franchise and Jacques Kallis vacating his post at Kolkata Knight Riders, I’m hoping CSA has already consulted with them to take over from Gibson at the Proteas. But that’s just me.
Now let’s look at the support staff of the Proteas. Dale Benkenstein is currently the batting coach. It must be said that our batting has looked woeful in recent times. It seems to be a combination of AB De Villiers retiring, Hashim Amla suffering an extended loss of form and the others all suffering loss of confidence, either at different times or all together. It certainly hasn’t made the batting coach look effective. It was during the Indian ODI tour to SA that Benkenstein infamously said the Protea batsmen couldn’t pick the Indian spinners. As a batting coach, one would think that it would be his job to try identify ways to pick and combat the opposition’s leg spinners, but maybe that would be asking too much. Personally, I’d much rather employ Kallis as the batting coach.
Next is Justin Ontong, our fielding coach. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Proteas side drop so many catches. Stalwarts in the side like Kallis, Smith and de Villiers, that rarely dropped anything, are no longer there to be relied on. The fielding coach has his work cut out for him to make sure the next generation are at their best. I do get the feeling however, that SA has not put enough emphasis on fielding and conditioning for a very long time, but rather leaving it for the individual player to judge their own efforts. A guy like Imran Tahir has improved drastically over 9 years, and has kept himself in peak condition, but his understudy, Tabriz Shamsi, seems to struggle with his fitness and sharpness in the field. One of best fielders going into the world cup, namely David Miller found himself on the wrong side of a few fielding blunders. It may just be attitude, but I’m guessing it’s more than that. Again, I’m calling for the removal of the current fielding coach, and I’d look at Jonty Rhodes, or Herschelle Gibbs, or even follow Australia’s route and bring in consultants from baseball to add to the skills of throwing and catching with precision and speed, in addition to a coach.
Claude Henderson is our spin bowling coach, and has done a terrific job with our spinners. No complaints from this guy, but I would get Immy to assist on a consultancy basis until he fully retires, then I’d sign him up permanently. Henderson was a finger spinner, so Tahir’s knowledge of wrist spin is invaluable to us.
Ottis Gibson is currently our head bowling coach as well. Now I just want to say up front, I feel for Ottis in this department. CSA seemed to have no control over whether our bowlers play in the IPL, or how their workload got managed during it. Our fast bowlers all entered the world cup with injuries. But having said that, the Protea fast bowlers all seemed to be hell bent on bowling short with no one looking to swing the ball. Don’t get me started on the death overs where we seem to no longer even try and bowl yorkers? It all seemed to start when we played the sub-continent teams in SA, where a barrage of bouncers on spicy wickets really unsettled them. However, as soon as the pitches didn’t offer the juice, or the batsman showed courage, that tactic failed to work. Sri Lanka certainly expected it, and a as result are the first sub-continent team to win a series in SA. Two – duck I might add! I also don’t think Gibson would stay on as bowling coach if he was removed as Head Coach. I’d appoint Mark Boucher as head coach and either Alan Donald or Vincent Barnes as bowling coach.
I think that’s all the coaches, so that brings us to the players. Most the older players have retired already, leaving only 3 that need to be discussed due to their age. The other players that have not performed are young enough to force their way back into the side should they be dropped. The only reason we are discussing this at all, is because the next 50 over World Cup is 4 years away, and the new Test Championship is just about to begin. These 3 players are Faf Du Plessis, Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla.
Faf Du Plessis has already suggested he may retire after next year’s T20 World Cup, also suggesting he may step down from ODI’s immediately but continue in Test cricket for a bit longer. Personally, I think we need him to mentor the young players in Test cricket and he’s our best remaining batsman, along with De Kock in T20 cricket, so I’d beg him to stay.
Hashim Amla, so long our anchor in the batting line up, but has recently had problems outside his off stump. I wouldn’t consider him for any more ‘white ball cricket’ in a Protea shirt, but he may still have something to offer in red ball cricket? The slower pitches of India may help him as he is one of our best against spin and the fast bowlers will be somewhat neutralized. How he fairs against the excellent pace attack on fast pitches against England later in the year is a big concern though. Faf was correct in saying Hash should have the privilege of calling time on his own career, I just hope he doesn’t go on one tour too many. Rassie van den Dussen should make the test team regardless if Amla plays or not, but we also have De Bruyn and Hamza waiting in the wings.
Then there’s Dale Steyn, our crazy eyed, menacing fast bowler. I feel for Dale, as it seems life isn’t prepared to let him go out on his own terms, even though he’s determined to try. The only problem for South Africa, is that a number of fast bowlers have opted to leave our system to play county cricket instead. This has left us with many young fast bowlers full of potential, but hugely lacking in experience and possibly temperament at this stage of their careers. This also hasn’t been helped by the frequent injuries to Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortjie. Vernon Philander is no stranger to the physios chair either. If India prepare dusty tracks like the last tour, we are going to need 2 spinners, so Steyn might not get a look-in anyway, but that again leaves an over reliance on Rabada. Rabada seems destined to play every game and lead the attack every time. The guy is 24 years old and already over-bowled. We may need to ask Steyn to take on a different role as a squad man and cover for Rabada, but if fit, look to play him on quicker tracks together with KG. That’s what I would try to facilitate, injury pending though.
So let’s wait and see what bombshell CSA drop on us and what bolters are picked for this Indian tour. I’m really keen to see our players on the pitch and put the CWC campaign behind us.