Morné Morkel and Ottis Gibson need to talk‚ again.
This time they need to get down to brass tacks about the 2019 World Cup — or as close as they can get, considering it is almost two years away.
Morkel said in September that "one of the conversations" he would have with SA’s new coach would be to establish "where I fit in with white-ball cricket‚ and if there are any plans for me in 2019".
The two have spoken‚ but Gibson said on Sunday the World Cup conversation had yet to be had. "I absolutely didn’t tell him anything about the World Cup because it’s still so far away‚" Gibson said.
"I’d encourage him to keep enjoying his cricket‚ which he’s been doing before he got injured. I’ve had a few conversations with him. We haven’t really had a face-to-face yet but that will happen," he said.
Communication between Morkel and Gibson will not have been helped by the fast bowler being sidelined for up to six weeks as a result of the torn side he suffered during the first Test against Bangladesh in Potchefstroom last week.
No doubt they will get down to business‚ but that should happen sooner rather than later because Morkel has suggested he would put himself on the Kolpak market if he is not part of SA’s World Cup blueprint.
It is complicated because Morkel turned 33 on Friday and his latest injury follows almost a year on the sidelines with a back problem. But since returning, he has been‚ according to captain Faf du Plessis last week‚ "at his best ever".
Morkel bowled with pace‚ aggression and consistency to be SA’s leading wicket-taker in the Test series in England this winter. He delivered more of the same to claim match figures of 4/70 before he was injured in Potchefstroom.
Pertinently‚ Morkel was easily the best of SA’s seamers in the Champions Trophy in England in June when he took five wickets at 17.40 and had an economy rate of 4.35.
No player can expect a guarantee of his involvement in a tournament two years from now. Perhaps all Morkel is after is an assurance that‚ if fit and in form‚ he will be an important part of SA’s one-day plans leading up to the World Cup.
Happily‚ other aspects of Gibson’s first three weeks in the job have been less complex than all that. Two matches into his tenure‚ and with two emphatic victories to his name‚ he likes what he sees.
"The lads played really well and deserved to win‚" Gibson said after his team sealed a 2-0 Test series victory over the Bangladeshis in Bloemfontein.
SA‚ who won the Potchefstroom Test by 333 runs‚ surged to victory by an innings and 254 runs with more than two days to spare. "Everybody said ‘easy series’ but you still have to go and play cricket‚" Gibson said.
"We’re very pleased with the cricket we played and I said to the players that if you believe the opposition isn’t that good‚ you must play to a specific standard, and we played to a very high standard," said the coach.
Gibson‚ who previously was England’s bowling coach‚ saw some of his charges in action for the first time in Potchefstroom and Bloemfontein.
He would have watched Duanne Olivier on SA’s tour to England‚ but has a better idea of what the fast bowler can do after his aggressive performance in Bloemfontein, where he took four wickets in the match and put Mushfiqur Rahim in hospital with a bouncer to the helmet.
"When you ask a guy to do something‚ can he do it? And [Olivier] did exactly what he was asked to do.
"Andile [Phehlukwayo‚ who made his debut in Potchefstroom and took 3/36 in the second innings in Bloemfontein] was the same.
"If you’re going to come in as a fourth seamer‚ you need to control your length. I thought he did that and deserved his wickets," Gibson said.
Might Gibson‚ a fast bowler himself in his playing days‚ want to claim the credit for that success? "Absolutely not. I was sitting having cups of tea while they were bowling so it’s all down to them."
Kagiso Rabada was the star of SA’s bowling show with his match haul of 10/63.
"The thing I like about him is that he’s very open to learning‚" Gibson said. "Sometimes in the morning I mention things to him‚ expecting him to do it later on‚ and then he starts doing it immediately…. He’s a bit of a sponge and a great talent."