DURBAN - Ottis Gibson played a straight bat to his South African team’s single biggest problem in Sri Lanka. Over the course of their trip, almost all of their problems stemmed from an inability to put together decent totals with the bat.
“We can’t get away from the fact can’t get away from the fact that the batting was frustrating. We look at the way we played in the first three games of the series. Our focus for the last six or eight months has been trying to get ready for the World Cup, so we sat down and spoke about the style of play that we wanted,” the Proteas head coach explained.
“We talked about having positive intent and taking the game on, but within that also comes player thinking and, today, I questioned our thinking,” he said in the aftermath of the T20 loss in Colombo.
The debate around South Africa’s eternally positive approach will linger until the World Cup if they persists with it, and Gibson is not turning his back on the policy just yet. “We want to be positive, but you still want to make good decisions. The teams that make the best decisions under pressure are the ones that perform the best, and the decision making of some of our players was questionable,” he added
There was also an admittance that South Africa’s spin problems are a growing concern, and Gibson seems adamant that attack remains the bestway of defending. “Some guys play spin very well and others not so well. But I still like the fact that we’re trying to score runs," he said.
"My feeling is, if you defend and get out defending, then you’re still not scoring runs. You still have to find a way to score. I don’t want people to go into their shells and start to think that they have to defend. I want guys to look to score,” Gibson insisted.
Looking ahead to the World Cup, which is the ultimate project that is the crutch for any manner of experimentation between now and June next year, Gibson said the puzzle was starting to come together.
“I feel like right now we have 10 spots out of 15. We brought a very inexperienced line-up here. It’s not so much on purpose, but also about who is available," he said. "(Chris) Morris is injured, we felt Dale (Steyn) maybe going back and playing some county cricket would be good for him.
"We know what Dale can do in ODI cricket and we know what (Imran) Tahir can do. We told Tahir that he is our No 1, but it gave us an opportunity to see (Tabraiz) Shamsi and (Keshav) Maharaj, and I think Shamsi has been brilliant on this tour,” he said of his left-arm wrist spinner.
Another point of concern for the side, in the absence of Morris, is the lack of a proper all-rounder. “Young Andile Phehlukwayo and Wiaan Mulder have shown promise with the ball, but their batting is not up to scratch.
“Andile has played 30 games, Mulder has played four or five ... we’ve looked at some guys and we know where they are. We have a couple of series to go and also some franchise cricket to try and get them up to the level that they need to be at,” Gibson said hopefully.
Despite the results, Gibson remains cheerful about his side’s prospects. He sees progress, even with the frustration of losses and particular lows with the bat. "I’m happy with where the side is going,"he added.
"Of course I’m not happy to lose and I’m sure the people watching back home aren’t happy but, from the get-go, we said it wasn’t about winning for us. If it was all about winning for us we would have brought guys like Tahir and so on.
"Winning a series in Sri Lanka right now doesn’t give us a strong indicator of where we are going into the World Cup,” he maintained. The proof in the pudding that Gibson is meticulously baking will be apparent next year. Until then, it is a game of patience.