Ottis Gibson, the new South Africa coach, was faced with a problem he described as “crucial” at the very start of his tenure – injuries to four leading fast bowlers.
Gibson’s first media conference as coach on Tuesday (September 19) was preceded by Mohammed Moosajee, the team manager, giving an update on the four bowlers – Vernon Philander, Chris Morris, Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi – who are all out of action a week ahead of the first Test against Bangladesh, starting in Potchefstroom on September 28.
Philander, Morris and Ngidi have back injuries, with Philander hoping to return at franchise-level cricket next week with a view to being available for selection for the second Test. Morris and Ngidi are both in the final stages of rehabilitation and could be considered for some of the limited-overs matches towards the end of the Bangladesh tour.
Steyn suffered a muscle strain in the right shoulder, which he fractured last November, and Moosajee said no time frame was being put on what he said would be a “slow, graduated” return to full bowling fitness.
Asked about his immediate challenges, Gibson said, “The most crucial for me is four quality fast bowlers being injured. That’s a problem straight away. To win Test matches you need to take 20 wickets and having your best four fast bowlers fit and ready gives you a chance to do that.”
Gibson said he had asked Cricket South Africa to get all the country’s leading players in action during the first round of four-day franchise matches, which started on Tuesday. “I don’t want to get into any thinking that Bangladesh is an easy series,” pointed out Gibson.
He cited Bangladesh’s recent win against Australia and said he had been on the receiving end as England’s bowling coach when Bangladesh beat England during a shared series in Bangladesh last year.
“They’re going to be tough,” said Gibson. “That’s why I said, let’s get everyone playing. We haven’t played a lot of cricket since the Tests in England in August and we need to make sure we’re up to speed.”
Acknowledging that winning the World Cup in 2019 was a major goal, following a succession of failures by South Africa in global tournaments, Gibson said he would discuss with senior players what sort of legacy they wanted to leave: “If it is to win the 2019 World Cup and if everyone gets into that mode, we’re climbing a mountain on the way to doing something special.”
Gibson said he had been in frequent touch with Faf du Plessis and he would make it a priority to talk with all South Africa’s six franchise coaches to get their inputs on the quality and character of players in the system.
Gibson added that he respected the job Russell Domingo, the former coach, had done and said he was happy to be working with Domingo’s support staff during the Bangladesh tour. “They have helped take the team to No. 1. By the end of the Bangladesh series I should be able to say to Cricket South Africa, these are the people I want,” said Gibson.