CAPE TOWN - “Cricket is still, at the end of the day, a gentleman’s game,” says Proteas coach Ottis Gibson.
Considering the dramatic events that have punctuated this tumultuous series between South Africa and Australia, there may be a feeling that Gibson resides on a different planet to everyone else at the moment.
But such is Gibson’s desire to maintain the code of sportsmanship that he is even hoping to “have a beer” with the Australians after the fourth and final Test starting in Johannesburg on Friday.
“After the first Test all the talk was about (Quinton) De Kock and Warner, after the second all the talk was Smith and (Kagiso) Rabada and now at the end of the third Test match we’re just pleased that we’re not involved in the stuff that is going on. That’s something for them to sort out,” Gibson told reporters.
“Australia and South Africa are two great sporting nations and South Africa have never beaten Australia in South Africa in Test cricket (since re-admission). Even when I heard that at the beginning, it didn’t seem right you know what I mean
“Hopefully we can get over the line. Obviously we not there yet, but we are in a great position. Hopefully we can get to Joburg and get a win and this will rank possibly higher than (beating World No 1) India in terms of the context of everything that has gone on this summer.”
It certainly has been an eventful initiation for the Barbadian who is still only in his first season as head coach of the Proteas. After enjoying a honeymoon settling in period when his team disposed of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe without much fuss, the Proteas ran into a determined and highly-skilled India team led by the vociferous Virat Kohli.
Although the Proteas managed to scale that mountain in the Test series, an international summer that begun way back in October is now starting to take its toll heading into the season’s climax.
“It has been a long summer. There are quite a few broken bodies. Faf (du Plessis) is being held together by I was going to say sticky tape but probably not the right thing to say right now (laughs) but Faf’s body is just about being held together and AB’s finger is still hurting, so we obviously have a few niggles to sort out.
South Africa have made at least one change to their starting XI for each of the first three Tests, with a double swap in the last Test at Newlands, so the old-age saying of “never change a winning team” doesn’t necessarily apply to Gibson and his fellow selectors.
It seems the Proteas coach will follow the same mantra after inspecting the notorious Bullring pitch on Wednesday, intimating that local boy Wiaan Mulder could get a run on his home patch.
“In a three-man attack it is nice to freshen up at least one bowler. We rested Morne (Morkel) in PE and then Morne came back and came in fresh and bowled brilliantly well. When Lungi (Ngidi) missed out on the first Test, he bowled well in the second when he was fresh, so we will see when we get to Joburg,” Gibson said.
“Wiaan Mulder is improving all the time. He will definitely come into the reckoning in Joburg. It is his home ground, we could need another all-rounder there as a fourth (seam) bowling option. There are quite a few changes that we could make that could add value to the team.”