Ottis Gibson’s mission: Guide Proteas to World Cup glory
It’s the World Cup‚ stupid.
Whatever you think of Ottis Gibson’s appointment as SA’s coach, he knows why he has been hired.
"That’s been a huge part of how Cricket SA pitched the job‚" Gibson said at a media conference in London on Tuesday.
"Every team wants to win a global tournament. SA has never won one and that’s obviously one of their big things.
"You look at SA‚ you look at the players that they potentially [can] put on the field and there’s no reason why they can’t win the World Cup in 2019‚ here in England. That would be something great for me as a coach, but more than that‚ great for the country," Gibson said.
"They have a very strong sporting culture in SA, so to be able to do something like that would be amazing."
Gibson will have keen insights into SA’s trophylessness, having played for Border‚ Gauteng and Griqualand West in the 1990s — and from guiding a West Indian team in deep decline to triumph at the 2012 World T20.
"When I went back to the Caribbean, we had the makings of a great team‚" he said.
"We had all the players — the IPL [Indian Premier League] superstars and all that — but we had never won a T20 World Cup. There are a lot of things that I learnt from that situation.
"It’s important that everybody that’s involved is wanting the same thing and ultimately everybody wants the team to win. I believe when Cricket SA did their search for a coach, they felt I could be a person that would come in there and take the team forward."
Had he considered circumstances peculiar to South African cricket — using transformation to find the best players and absorbing the loss of those who choose Kolpak over country — before agreeing to a deal?
"Every player would say he is making a decision for his family and when people say that, they don’t think they can get an opportunity and move on. There’s not a lot that I as a coach can do‚ and that’s something for Cricket SA to look into‚" he said.
"My job is to try and work with the players that are there‚ to try and make sure they are ready to win matches for SA."
Gibson saw parallels in the drain of players from SA and a West Indian team that‚ despite their lack of big names‚ fought back to level their series in England and go into the last match with a chance to win the series.
"We said because we didn’t see [Brian] Lara‚ [Curtly] Ambrose‚ [Courtney] Walsh, we didn’t see the household names on the team sheet … this is the worst West Indies team in history. But those players stuck together and believed in themselves and in what Stuart Law as a coach was instilling in them‚ and then they went on to cause what some people are now calling one of the greatest upsets in sport [by winning the second Test after losing the first heavily]," he said.
Transformation? Not my problem‚ Gibson said.
"Transformation was mentioned, but it didn’t have to be in my opinion because it is a government policy‚" he said. "Once it’s a government policy… there’s nothing I can do about it. I have to work with it. I can’t … say I want to change that.
"I know that it is there and I understand why it is there.
"Whether I like it or not is irrelevant because it’s there and we have to work with it," Gibson said.