SOUTHAMPTON – If South Africa’s under-performing World Cup team was not enough to concern Ottis Gibson, the Proteas coach went from the hot seat to the ‘electric chair’ on Saturday.
“Feels like it’s a court case here,” Gibson told the South African media contingent intent on unravelling the timeline related to the ”AB Gate” saga that has engulfed the Proteas at this World Cup.
There has been a massive outcry since it was revealed earlier this week that former national captain AB de Villiers offered to come out of retirement on the eve of the Proteas’ World Cup squad announcement.
Although Cricket South Africa have already released a statement, Gibson was pressed to provide greater clarity on the burning issue.
“It was the morning of or the night before, I can’t remember,” Gibson explained.
“I can’t be sure who knew first or whatever, so I don’t really want to be saying things out of turn.
“But he spoke to (Proteas captain) Faf (du Plessis), I think they were in the IPL or whatever, and then Faf phoned me to tell me what was going on, and then at some point sometime after that, he then phoned me.
“I can’t remember his exact words, but he asked if there was any chance he could come back.
“I said I would have to check with Cricket South Africa and the chairman of selectors.
“We all came to the conclusion that he had left it too late. A lot had happened since then. We had moved on.”
De Villiers retired from all international cricket in May 2018, saying he “had run out of gas”, but continued to play in various T20 leagues around the world.
Gibson indicated that he had a passing conversation in December with De Villiers during the Mzansi Super League, where the star batsman was turning out for the Tshwane Spartans.
“I asked him if he was finished with this ‘retirement nonsense’ yet, and he said he was happy with his retirement and with the decision he has made.
“That was the end of that as far as I was concerned and the Proteas was concerned.”
But with South Africa having yet to taste victory after three starts in the United Kingdon, and faced with a mountainous task of progressing to the semi-finals, does Gibson believe De Villiers’ presence in the dressing-room would have made a difference?
The Barbadian offered a blunt response.
“I can’t recall in recent history a team picking a guy that’s retired,” he stressed. “You shouldn’t have to beg a player to play for his country. We’ve moved on.
“When we played in South Africa we won eight of the last 10 games... You guys (the media) weren’t asking those questions then.
The boys will keep fighting with everything they've got.— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) June 7, 2019
Why? Because they're South African. There's still hope with 6 games to play. Next up, West Indies. Monday, 11.30am. #ProteaFire #ItsMoreThanCricket pic.twitter.com/h9spMl7gYh
“I suspect that there are a lot more people wanting AB to be here than AB himself.
“If he wanted to be here, he would be here, but he is wherever he is in the world right now doing exactly what he wants to be doing.
“We can talk about AB all we want, but he’s not here and he cannot help us. Only we can help us.
“We have to keep believing in ourselves and in the people who are here to do well in the tournament. Nobody’s shaken up, nobody’s died or anything…”
South Africa face the West Indies – Gibson’s former team – on Monday here at the Hampshire Bowl.