JOHANNESBURG – Cricket South Africa’s Board of Directors agreed in principle to extend Ottis Gibson contract as Proteas head coach until April 2021, before reneging and firing Gibson last weekend.
In a series of internal documents seen by Independent Online, CSA’s Board agreed, following a February 1 meeting, to extend Gibson’s contract and even went so far as to ask one of the Directors, Steve Cornelius, to draft a new contract that would be presented to Gibson.
That never happened and while Gibson stated during the World Cup and again afterwards that he would like to continue in the position, CSA turned its back on him, never showing him any paperwork and instead opting to set up a brand new structure that combines the head coach’s job, with that of the logistics manager.
The series of internal correspondence further outlines the breakdown in the relationship between Gibson and Cricket SA’s chief executive Thabang Moroe especially regarding team selection and recalling players who were participating in the Indian Premier League, to rest and prepare for the World Cup.
While a clause in Gibson’s contract did state that Gibson needed to achieve success in an ICC World Cup tournament, at its February 1 meeting this year, Directors appeared happy enough with Gibson’s work that they were willing to offer him a two year extension that would have included the T20 World Cup, which takes place in Australia in November next year.
Gibson’s relationship with Moroe was fractious at best in his final six months in charge of the Proteas with Gibson expressing concern about Moroe having the final sign off on all teams that took to the field - a decision approved by the Board, also at the February 1 meeting.
Gibson was surprised to find out that such power rested with the CEO, as it was understood, in the wake of the drama that enveloped the team during the 2015 World Cup semifinal that all selection matters would rest with the national selection panel, with the convenor, Linda Zondi having the final say on the composition of the starting eleven.
However Moroe cited pressure from government, who according to him was concerned that Cricket SA was not meeting its transformation targets. The CEO was also upset that when Gibson expressed his concerns about the policy he did so with CSA’s president Chris Nenzani and not with Moroe. Moroe and Nenzani would later clear up the matter, and by February 11, it was decided to scrap that policy and return to final approval resting with the selectors.
It was a policy that Nenzani reiterated on the day the World Cup squad was announced, was utilised in picking the squad - Zondi and his panel had the final say in who was selected.
Most of the drama surrounding that team selection centered around player management, with initial concerns about the workloads of Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi. Gibson and the national team’s management were insistent that the playing time for both fast bowlers be limited to allow them to be fresh for the World Cup. That included limiting their time at the IPL.
Ngidi would later pick up a back strain that prevented him from playing in the IPL. In addition to Rabada, Gibson requested that Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock - who, like Rabada play across all three formats - return early from the IPL to allow them to recuperate ahead of the Proteas’ pre-World Cup camp.
Du Plessis and De Kock both ended up playing the final of the IPL, while Rabada was only withdrawn - later than Gibson had requested - after he’d picked up an injury.
Gibson had requested as far back as January that the trio along with Ngidi be closely monitored before returning early from the IPL just as England and Australia were doing with their World Cup bound players. Despite being told by CSA hierarchy that the matter was being handled, no formal withdrawal was made nor was any communication forthcoming to Gibson, the team management or the players. As late as April, with the IPL already into its second week, Gibson was pleading with Moroe to outline what was happening with Du Plessis, De Kock and Rabada, even stating that the players themselves were in the dark.
It turns out however that CSA’s administrators folded in the face of economic pressure, sacrificing key World Cup players so as not to upset the BCCI who threatened to cancel ODIs between India and South Africa, which are lucrative money-spinners for CSA.