CAPE TOWN – It would not be surprising if Fire in Babylon was Ottis Gibson’s favourite movie. Despite the obvious connection with his West Indian heritage, the documentary depicts how cricket in the Caribbean transformed itself from an entertaining pastime to being feared as the best in the world.
At the heart of the transformation was the battery of fast bowlers the islanders produced. Yes, there were some fantastic batsmen - even one who many regard as the best ever seen, in Sir Vivian Richards - but at the heart of it all was four men with the ability to unleash rapier-like thunderbolts.
Of course Gibson did not need the movie to remind him of this. He grew up in Barbados watching the likes of Colin Croft, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, Andy Roberts and Michael Holding strike fear into any batsman that dared cross their path.
It should therefore not be a surprise that Gibson, now an accomplished coach with the Proteas, would be keen to utilise his own “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” whenever his team take to the field. Equally, he is never going to be apologetic about it.
“When I first got into cricket it was similar. If you have four fast bowlers of the quality that we have here, it would be silly not to use them especially if you have the conditions that we have,” Gibson said after South Africa completed a nine-wicket victory over Pakistan at Newlands that sealed the series 2-0.
“When we go away from here, and the conditions change, then we will make the change, but as long as the conditions are like this, it would be silly not to play them with the quality we have, the skill we have and the fitness levels we have. They are all very different too: Duanne (Olivier) is fast and aggressive, (Dale) Steyn is highly-skilled and pitches the ball up, Vernon Philander is very accurate and (Kagiso) Rabada does a bit of everything.”
So, for all the romantics’ clamour that left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj’s skills are being neglected due to this “obsession with pace”, the formula is proving to be successful with South Africa winning 12 of the 14 Tests they have played at home since Gibson and captain Faf du Plessis joined forces.
The Barbadian also hit back at his Pakistan counterpart Mickey Arthur’s claims that the pitches used for the on-going series were not good enough.
“I don’t like to comment on others’ statements, but what I will say is to make a comment like that when your team has only got four wickets on the day and a guy has scored a hundred seems a little bit strange.
“Mickey and I go way back to our days in Kimberley and get along very well, but I guess when you are behind the game like he was, you want to deflect away from your team and that’s the way to do it,” Gibson said.
Gibson won’t have his on-field leader Faf du Plessis at the Wanderers though after the Proteas skipper was suspended from the third Test due to a slow-over rate at Newlands, but he has said that while “it is disappointing losing Faf, we have seen in the past how players have stepped up when needed and I know the same will apply for the third Test”.@ZaahierAdams