DURBAN – The Proteas start their tour of Australia in earnest today, with a tune-up match in Canberra.
But, even before a ball has been bowled, coach Ottis Gibson faced the full barrage from local press.
The aftermath of the Australian visit to South Africa is still lingering in Australia, after the latest report was released this week.
Australia is still a nation in healing, and the Proteas’ visit has come at a timely moment. The media opportunity allowed those who had lingering questions to climb into Gibson. And they didn’t hesitate.
“It was well documented, but Justin Langer and his team want it all behind them, and they want to focus on the cricket,” Gibson said diplomatically.
But, the locals wanted more. This winter has been a stain on the Australian cricket character, and it has taken a while to move on. So it was unsurprising that, in front of local hacks, Gibson’s take on matters was requested.
“What happened called for strong action. We are six months down the road, but some people think it was too harsh,” he said of the sanctions imposed on Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.
It was an international scandal, and the Proteas were caught in the crossfire. Though they want nothing more than to lock horns with the world champions, they always knew that these things would pop up.
Hard questions would have to be answered, even after the event.
“Hindsight gives us a chance to look back at things, but what happened shouldn’t have happened,” Gibson maintained.
He also took some South African blame for things escalating. To be fair, the Proteas also played their full part in a tempestuous affair.
“We obviously don’t want it to spill over to the shoulder brushing and other things that happened, but we have put that behind us. It’s just a game,” the South African coach reminded.
In all the hoo-ha about ball tampering, staircases and send-offs out in the middle, people forgot the essence of what everyone had turned up for.
Cricket still matters, and especially between these two proud nations. Gibson had to remind all and sundry that the game was still the essence.
“There was always an incident, but the cricket never got mentioned. It is disappointing when cricket gets lost, because at the end of the day, that’s why we are all here,” Gibson said.
Those are sensible words, by a man just as exasperated as the next about the spill over from the Australian shame at Newlands.