JOHANNESSBURG – The appointment of Ottis Gibson as the Proteas’ new head coach is akin to pressing the refresh button for the national team, says former all-rounder Jacques Kallis.
But Kallis feels there are some important decisions awaiting the Barbadian mentor that will immediately indicate the enormity of the challenge that awaits him.
“I’ve heard many good things about ‘Oti’. I’ve never worked under him, but if the England side has employed him, then you know there is something special about him,” Kallis said on Tuesday.
“It’s like a ‘refresh’ button has been hit. I’m excited about the season, I’m sure all the players are. There is no reason why this team can’t achieve the goals they want... the talent is there. It’s a matter of putting it together on the field.”
Gibson, who has already been in touch with the South African selectors, arrives in the country next week and has demanded all the national team players avail themselves for opening round of the Sunfoil Series starting next Tuesday.
The squad for the two Tests against Bangladesh will be picked thereafter. Already there are concerns from the Titans camp about the fitness of Dale Steyn, who appears likely to miss the first round due to his shoulder injury.
However Kallis, who as coach of the Cape Town Knight Riders team in the T20 Global League drafted Steyn, says he’s confident the quick-bowling ace will soon be back to full fitness.
“Having chosen him for the Knight Riders, I’ve kept a close eye on him... I was under a little bit of pressure from the owners asking ‘Are you sure?’
“He’s busy bowling seven overs a day at the moment, and doesn’t want to go into a four day game upfront. He’s worried about bowling 18 overs in a day – three times six-over spells – so I think he just wants to ease into it a little bit more and make sure he’s 100 percent fit,” said Kallis.
While having Steyn back for the Bangladesh series would be beneficial, Gibson’s bigger concerns will be about South Africa’s top-order batting, which crumbled against a Gibson-coached England bowling attack recently.
The primary objective will be to find Dean Elgar an opening partner. Even if he was fit, it would have been unlikely Heino Kuhn would have gotten the opportunity to continue his Test career after a dismal series in England, where he averaged 14.12.
But Kuhn is still sidelined with a knee injury he picked up in the fourth Test in Manchester, and it’s more than likely Elgar will open with either Stephen Cook – who showed excellent form recently for the SA A side against India A – or Aiden Markram, who many believe is a long-term solution at the top of the Proteas Test batting order.
“It is tough at the top of the order in England, so to judge a guy only on that is a tough call,” said Kallis.
“I’m not one for chopping and changing too much, but the coach may have some fresh ideas, and want some fresh young guys.
“It’s about what the coach and selectors feel – where do they want to take the team, and also the balance of the side.”
Although he acknowledged he wasn’t entirely focused on the recent series in England, which the Proteas lost 3-1, Kallis believes a lack of cohesion played a significant part in the team’s downfall.
“Touring England is not easy. It took us a long time to win a series there. They are a good side, especially at home, and we are a young-ish sort of side.
“It’s a case of putting the whole package together. From what I hear it was bits of the batting which was good, bits of the bowling was good, and it’s a matter of finding a way of combining it, and to stop the big wave of really good play versus really bad.
“Obviously you want to get your good performances as good as they can, and then the bad days, make it less of a bad day by doing little things better or tweaking a few things.
“That’s how you even out the performance level. You can’t always win, but your bad days have to be less bad than what it is at the moment.”
* Financial institution Momentum on Tuesday extended their sponsorship with Cricket South Africa through to the end of the 2022 season.
That sponsorship covers various junior weeks, the national club championships, the national women’s team, the domestic One-Day Cup and being the title sponsor for One-Day Internationals in South Africa.
In addition, Momentum also partnered with the Jacques Kallis Foundation to form a Bursary Programme which will allow children from disadvantaged areas the opportunity for an education at one of the country’s top schools.
There are currently 26 pupils in the programme, while applications for 2019 can be made through Momentum by visiting their website: www.momentum.co.za