JOHANNESBURG – Ottis Gibson is more interested in how the relatively youthful Proteas squad will play against Zimbabwe and not what number of runs they score or wickets they take.
The Proteas coach, who returned to the country earlier this week, said the nature of the opposition meant the emphasis was on the home team’s players to perform with the style and most importantly the right attitude against opponents of a lesser standing.
“The first couple of games in Sri Lanka, we took a positive approach to the game, tried to score quickly. We were not thinking about the opposition rather thinking about a style of play that we want to take forward. If someone comes in and adjusts quickly to that, that person is someone we are interested in taking forward with us,” said Gibson.
Gibson highlighted how the national side faced a similar scenario last summer when he first joined last year. “I was nervous last year when we played Bangladesh and everyone said it was ‘only Bangladesh’ but you still have to go out there and compete and play and we played very well.”
“The message is the same (now) you can’t take any opposition in international sport for granted; those guys have their own reasons for coming here and wanting to do well and turn over their neighbours. We have to make sure, whether we have new names or not, that the attitude we bring to the games is exactly where we need to be or else I’m pretty sure we will get rolled over.”
With experienced players like skipper Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock and Dave Miller absent, it’s a young South African team that will take on their northern neighbours in three ODIs with Gibson once more reiterating that the series formed part of the experimental period for the national side ahead of the World Cup.
That period however is nearly at an end Gibson emphasised with this series and the one against Australia in November the last chance players have to impress the coach and selectors before they settle on a squad for the home series’s against Pakistan and Sri Lanka later this season that will resemble the group which will go to the World Cup next year.
“Every person that gets an opportunity now knows that there will be less and less opportunities going forward so you have to make every opportunity count at this stage,” said Gibson.
There are holes at the top of the order that need to be filled making Dean Elgar’s call up even more interesting – a like for like replacement for the injured Amla, said Gibson – while the on-going need to settle on some seam bowling all-rounders for England makes the series crucial for Wiaan Mulder and Andile Phehlukwayo, neither of whom showed much consistency in Sri Lanka.
“Right now the two all-rounders we had in Sri Lanka are young guys, some inexperience showed in their game over there.
The easy thing to do would be to say they didn’t do well enough and we move on, but when you are giving a guy an opportunity, you have to exhaust it before you move on,” said Gibson, who explained that Chris Morris and Vernon Philander remained firmly in the mix as far as the all-rounders candidates were concerned.
The squads are:
JP Duminy capt (capt)), Dean Elgar (Multiply Titans), Reeza Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Christiaan Jonker, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Lungisani Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn, Khaya Zondo.
Hamilton Masakadza (captain), Solomon Mire, Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams, Peter Moor, Elton Chigumbura, Donald Tiripano, Kyle Jarvis, Brandon Mavuta, Richard Ngarava, Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, Wellington Masakadza, Ryan Murray, Tendai Chatara.