CAPE TOWN - There’s a new man in town and he’s been charged with bringing the elusive ICC World Cup home to South Africa. At his unveiling as Proteas head coach at a press conference in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Ottis Gibson outlined his plans for the national cricket team.
1. What made you interested in taking the South African job?
To me, South Africa is a sports-mad place. The rugby team has had success - maybe not last Saturday but we won’t talk about that. I watched that game, by the way. I’m invested in the whole process of now being sort of an adopted South African so I feel the same way you feel. With the cricket team, there’s a lot of talent there and there’s a lot of people - Steyn, Morkel, Amla, Duminy, de Villiers - that have done unbelievable things in cricket - a lot of it individually and a lot of it as a team. With the World Cup in mind, there’s an opportunity for us to do something really special and that’s the focus over the next two years.
2. What are your main goals?
The Proteas have been to No.1 in the world on a few occasions and not very long ago they were No.1, so we’ve got people within the team who know what it takes to get to number one, so what we need to do is make sure that their love and passion for the game have they still got that passion? Can they get it back? That is the key. The senior guys in any environment drive the environment. We’ve got quality senior players. Are they still invested in getting back to the pile again? If they are then we’ve got a great platform. That is my philosophy for the next two years - taking the Proteas back to the top of the pile and then winning the World Cup.
3. What will it take to win the World Cup?
What I always try to do is take people back to when they started playing the game. Why did you play the game before, the love that you had for the game at the start and where you are now, now you’ve got some money in the bank and your family is secure but where is the love for the game. Have you still got that? Because that’s important going forward. If we are going to win things when the pressure is on and you can still think about when you got involved and think of having dreamt about being here for a long time. When you think of the World Cup in 2019, you go and you are under pressure and you can strip all the pressure away and think ‘I have dreamt about this my whole life’, maybe that gives you the edge to relax under the pressure and let your best cricket come out.
4. Creating a relationship with captain Faf du Plessis has been spoken of as crucial. How’s that going?
We’ve spoken plenty. Part of why I think I’m sitting here is that over the years I’ve been able to build relationships and maintain strong relationships. The relationship with Faf and I started when news broke in England. The Test match that was going on took a back seat and everyone was trying to see how things were going to evolve. We had conversations then and we’ve had conversations since. We had one last night as well by the way, so the relationship is starting to grow already.
5. The World Cup aside, are there any concerns that need to be looked at immediately?
Perhaps the most crucial thing for me, coming as a former fast bowler, is that we have four quality fast bowlers injured. That’s a problem, straight away. To win a match, you need to get 20 wickets. If you can have your best four fast bowlers fit and ready then that gives you a great chance of winning matches.
6. Transformation is also an important consideration in team selection. How will you adapt to that?
That process has been happening before I got here. There’s no need for me to go into that because it’s happening already as far as selection is concerned. We will continue on the path that we are on. It seems that the chairman of selectors has got a handle on that, so there’s no need for me to go into that.
Cricket is not like football where the manager gets fired and the next person that comes in brings a whole new support staff. I’m very aware that I’m coming here and I have a game in two weeks, so it doesn’t give me a lot of time to go and pick people and say, ‘Come we’re going to go and do this great thing in South Africa’. I’m very much aware of the transformation issues, and certainly when it comes to picking support staff that will be a part of it. I’ve been given the backing of CSA to pick what I consider to be the best people to take the team where I want to take it and to work with me. Over the course of the next five or six weeks, when I speak to coaches I’m going to try and get the best people for the jobs that I want them to do.