Gibson reflects on successful maiden season

Ottis Gibson has described his maiden season as the head coach of the Proteas as satisfying and rewarding. 

Gibson takes pride in the squad performances across the formats throughout the summer, which included series wins against Bangladesh – in all formats – and Test wins against India and Australia.

His tenure started in fairy-tale fashion with a whitewash across the formats against Bangladesh in September, but the biggest test was always going to be against India and Australia.

“I’m very satisfied,” he said after the historic win at the Wanderers Stadium on Tuesday. “To win these two series (India and Australia), especially this one with all the other noise that has been going on is quite rewarding.

“I have enjoyed my first six months,” he said. “It has been quite an experience, we have won eight out of 10 Test matches, and we won two big series. The same way that players set goals, the coaches also set goals for the team. The goal for the Test team is to try to get to No.1. We know where we are in that space but the way the players have welcomed me into the dressing room has been fantastic.”

Gibson gave special praise to Aiden Markram ( 480 runs) and Kagiso Rabada (23 wickets), after their performances to top the runs and wickets charts signalled a bright future ahead, but key acknowledgement was also given to the senior players, who stepped up to absorb the pressure in crucial moments.

“It has been a tough summer,” he admitted. “We played against two of the toughest teams to play against. We went a different way in terms of the approach we took for the series against India, we went with four fast bowlers and six batsmen. The pitches were a bit sporty and the batsmen were under pressure to score runs, but we didn’t need 500 scores on the wickets that we had so it was ok.

“The result of the one-day series wasn’t great, but personally I didn’t mind it. I know that the cricket fans who come to watch want the team to win but from my point of view I got to see a lot of players we wouldn’t have seen if there weren’t so many injuries. We have had so many injuries over the summer so it was tough to pick the same team from game to game but we got to see some new players. In September I spoke about widening the pool of players and we got to see some new players even though we didn’t have good results.

“A Test series against Australia in South Africa, our goal was to be the first South African team since readmission to win a series against Australia at home,” he said. “That was our focus in every game. When we lost in Durban – we didn’t play our best cricket- but we knew there were three games left to play. In every game we got better as we went on and we have seen some fantastic performances from young players like Aiden Markram leading the batting and KG Rabada leading the bowling.”

The limited-overs series loss to India was the only blight of the season, but for Gibson, is it was a blessing in disguise ahead of a World Cup season. Injuries to key players gave the selectors an opportunity to widen the player pool and to the test the depth of the resources within the squad.

“I’m certainly happy with the group of players we have,” he said. “The message for all the other franchise players is that if you are performing at franchise level you have a great chance to play for your country still. In limited-overs cricket we picked Robbie Frylinck, Lungi Ngidi and Junior Dala to name a few, a lot of guys performing at franchise level got opportunities this season. I would like to send the message to those guys who have ambition of playing for their country that they will get looked at.”

The 3-1 series win has brought the Proteas closer to the No.1 ranked India on the ICC Test rankings, who they trail by four points ahead of the series against Sri Lanka in July.