PAARL - On the face of it, it seems South Africa are in a very comfortable position. They trounced Bangladesh in the Test series, and on Sunday in Kimberley delivered a record-breaking walloping in the first ODI that the beleaguered tourists should still be hurting from ahead of the second match of the series in Paarl on Wednesday.
But yet they still find themselves between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they will be pretty keen to continue the momentum here at a half-refurbished Boland Park and then again on Sunday in East London. On the other hand though, they have the future to plan for, which includes a World Cup in only two years time.
Almost every match the Proteas have between now and then will be played as part of the grand design for that global jamboree to be held in the English summer of 2019.
It is half the reason Ottis Gibson is at the helm of the Proteas now. He is a man who has attained success at a major ICC event. If the Barbadian speaks about strategies, it is well worth listening to
“I think we need to be flexible. It is one of the things that we have spoken about, especially between Faf (du Plessis) and myself, is developing that flexibility within the team. Sometimes, you might need to inject some energy, some life, to have a go at a left-arm spinner or take on somebody,” Gibson said.
“And we want to practise that. Like I said, the cricket will get tougher going forward. We don’t want to be a one-dimensional team. We want to be a team with options. With the amount of talent we have in the team, it is something we want to work on.”
It certainly is a refreshing attitude. For all of the positives of the Russell Domingo era, the one criticism was that the Proteas were possibly over-dependent on statistical analysis. It is unlikely to be a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water, but there is a feeling the Gibson-Du Plessis alliance may trust their instincts a little more going forward.
Part of that “gut feeling” is Gibson’s eye for talent. He hasn’t watched much domestic cricket as yet, but upon arrival in South Africa at the beginning of the month he, along with national convenor Linda Zondi, whizzed between the Wanderers and SuperSport Park to catch up on some Sunfoil Series cricket.
At both venues Gibson was fortunate enough to see some bright young talent on display, with Titans hot-shot Aiden Markram and Highveld Lions teenage all-rounder Wiaan Mulder leaving an early impression on the new Proteas boss.
Markram was immediately summoned to the Test side where he has excelled with a 97 on debut and a century in the following Test. There was a bigger queue ahead of Mulder, but with Wayne Parnell ruled out of the series yesterday with a groin injury, Gibson did not hesitate on making his next bold move towards building for the World Cup with the 19-year-old being called up to the ODI squad.
“He (Mulder) is very talented,” Gibson said. “On one of the first days I got into the country I went down to the Wanderers and he was playing, I saw him and immediately liked him.
“I asked a question about him and they said he was in the system already, a good young U-19 player. One of the things we are trying to do as a one-day team is widening the pool of players that we have to choose from.
“He is here now because he is talented and is somebody who in two years’ time, if developed in the right way, there is no reason why he can’t be part of the squad.”
Gibson has wasted no time in putting the building blocks in place. An expected victory over Bangladesh at Boland Park on Wednesday will seal the series, and most likely allow him the freedom add a few more.