CAPE TOWN - Change of format. Change of ball. Change of clothing. Change of opposition. But the most important change for Proteas coach Ottis Gibson is the personnel change.
After putting out an inexperienced group in the One-Day and T20 series’ against India - both of which were lost - Gibson can now turn his attention to Australia for a four-match Test series where he will hopefully be able to call on all his stalwarts.
Captain Faf du Plessis played just one ODI, Quinton de Kock two and AB de Villiers the final three, while Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram and Kagiso Rabada all missed the entire T20 series.
“Experience again, experience. India have got Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, two very experienced players. We’ve got Morris and Junior Dala making his debut. The experience they have of playing not just for India but also playing three or four years of IPL cricket has shown in the end,” Gibson told the media after India clinched the T20 series at Newlands with a seven-run win.
“If you see, the senior guys got injured. The new guys that came in, the level and the intensity they have had to perform at is different from what they have been accustomed to and they haven’t stepped up to and haven’t been able to adapt quickly enough.”
It certainly has been a chastening experience for the Proteas over the past few weeks. Since the dead-rubber final Test at the Wanderers, India have enjoyed an almost vice-grip on the home side. No team previously from the subcontinent has left with two of the three trophies - in fact India had not even won a series in any format here before - but such was the dominance of Virat Kohli’s men in 2018.
Gibson, though, particularly rued the absence of Du Plessis, with the skipper’s inspirational leadership - much like Kohli’s - a visible absentee.
“Our captain missing [Du Plessis] has been a massive loss" the Barbadian bemoaned. “Seniors in any team makes it stronger. Especially the seniors we have coming back in the team. It has been a massive loss without them being there. We all thought that AB’s body is better than what it was in ODIs.
“I hope he is somewhere near 100% and he can take place in his team. Even Dale Steyn is not far away again. So we missed the seniors in this series, no doubt about that. Having them back will give everybody a lift.”
Continuing the trend of change, Gibson was keen to stress that the Proteas’ team management will also leave the curators at the four Test match venues for the Australian series to their own devices when it comes to the preparation of the surfaces.
This was in contrast to the India Test series when the home side’s requests for “pace and bounce” had curators in a sweat, resulting in the Wanderers serving up a pitch that was rated “poor” by the ICC after play was temporarily suspended on the third day.
The ICC penalised the Wanderers with three demerit points after Dean Elgar was hit on the helmet by a short delivery and a further censure could see South Africa’s largest cricket stadium hit with a 12-month ban.