Ottis Gibson couldn't understand why the Proteas performed so badly at the World Cup. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Coach Ottis Gibson remains at a loss about the mentality of the Proteas players at the Cricket World Cup, but he’s still keen to stay on as head coach and help the team overcome its tournament hurdle at the World T20 in Australia next year.

Gibson headed back to his home in England on Monday night having insisted on returning to South Africa to face the music following the Proteas's disappointing early exit at this year's 50-over showpiece. 

The South African team were never in contention for a spot in the final four, leading to questions about the players’ mental capacity at ICC events. 

Gibson stated that it remains a mystery to him how players who have performed well under pressure in Test matches and in bilateral series between World Cups, fail to live up to those standards at the tournament. “I don’t know what it is,” Gibson sighed. 

“When we played in other series we played with a really strong mentality, a winning attitude, and that’s what I’ve wanted from the beginning for the players to be fearless.” 

South Africa were eliminated from the tournament with two games to play, matches they ultimately won against Sri Lanka and Australia. 

Gibson refuted claims that players only performed in those matches once the pressure of qualifying for a play-off spot was off their shoulders. 

“To that I say: in the last game of the tournament, you’re playing against Australia, who’ve already qualified, I’ve been around teams who’ve thrown the towel in, one foot is on the plane already, but we pitched up and put in a fantastic performance against a team that could potentially go onto win the World Cup.”

“We didn’t get the win against Bangladesh (in SA’s second match) in a game we were expected to win and then the confidence takes a hit and as soon as that happens, the strong characters stand up, and characters that feel the pressure go into themselves a little bit. We tried all the time in practice to keep making sure we maintain that fearlessness that we showed in other series. The tough start set us back, confidence took a hit and then it took us too long to recover that confidence.”

“Mentality wise I felt we fronted up,” he stated. 

Gibson’s future as the Proteas head coach will be the main topic of discussion at a special meeting of Cricket SA’s Board of Directors on July 20. Gibson reiterated, even more firmly than he did in Manchester at the weekend, that he wants to remain as the national team’s coach. 

“I feel I have unfinished business. The T20 World Cup is around the corner….we’ll see how the conversations unfold in the next few weeks,” he said, adding that he’d held conversations with CSA in January about staying in the job. 

Gibson along with skipper Faf du Plessis and manager Mohammed Moosajee will submit reports that will be tabled at the July 20 meeting as part of an "executive summary" providing their perspectives on what went wrong in England. 

The players too will submit answers based on a questionnaire about the team’s preparations and provide their perspectives on what went wrong too.

Moosajee in part of his summation Monday, said the squad endured an unprecedented number of injuries, that affected not only those who departed for England, but also the players who were on standby  especially the bowlers. 

“We need to look at reality, I feel for the selectors and the coach. Most of the bowlers we took were either injured or there was a question mark about their fitness. Four of the back up bowlers were injured as well. 

“The second challenge  in four out of the first six games we ended up a man short, it’s almost unprecedented  Hash in the first game, Lungi in the second game, Rassie came off in the game against West Indies, Miller against Pakistan...I’ve never seen that in a World Cup before. Of the 15 players on tour, 12 had some form of significant injury or illness during the tour. There was a time that Ottis and I had to do 12th man duties,” said Moosajee.

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