Dale Steyn, who last turned out for South Africa in the first Test against Australia in early November last year and left the field after bowling just 12.4 overs, should stroll back into the team for the Boxing Day Test against Zimbabwe if fit, Ottis Gibson said on Monday (October 30).
Gibson, the new South African coach, wasn’t concerned that Steyn, out with a shoulder injury, hasn’t had any first-class cricket in close to a year. He also hinted that AB de Villiers, were he to want to return to long-format cricket, would also walk in straightaway.
“He (Steyn) has got a lot of cricket, albeit Twenty20 cricket, before the Tests, but there’s also a lot of time where we can build up his workload and we can see if he’s 100% fit,” said Gibson at a press interaction.
Steyn, expected to return to action for Titans when they start their T20 Challenge title defence in mid-November, has played just five of South Africa’s last 25 Tests and failed to finish three of them, mainly because of a long-standing shoulder condition but on one occasion with a groin strain as well.
“It’s Dale Steyn, not some average guy from down the road,” said Gibson. “It’s Dale Steyn, one of the best fast bowlers the country’s ever produced. If you look him in the eyes and ask ‘Dale, can you make it?’ and he says he can, then he’s given that opportunity.”
South Africa’s most recent assignment was a clean sweep across formats against an overwhelmed Bangladesh at home. But the tougher summer fixtures, especially the series against India, might test the South African pace attack. Currently missing are Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, while Duanne Olivier, one of the replacement pacers, also has a knee injury.
“Perhaps fitness is something we need to look at going forward. It’s not easy when you have that many quality players who would most likely be in the team, injured,” said Gibson. “That’s something we have to look at … we have started to look at how we can make that side of things better.”
Speaking specifically about Morkel, who had hinted at looking for a Kolpak contract if he were not in the fray for the 2019 World Cup, Gibson clarified, “We had a really good, honest discussion, and he’s committed his future to us over the next couple of years.
“Obviously the World Cup is a big thing, and he’s well aware that there can be no guarantees about that. In 2019, it will be form, fitness and conditions … that sort of stuff.”
Langeveldt out; Gibson to handle bowlers too
In a separate development, Gibson confirmed that Charl Langeveldt’s term as the bowling coach of the national team would not be extended, and that he would handle the bowlers himself.
“I will do the bowling, then there will be a batting coach, a fielding coach, an assistant coach and a spin bowling coach – so four, plus myself. Having spoken to Charl, bowling has always been my specialism as a coach, fast bowling. He fully understands that,” said Gibson of the former South African pacer, who took over as bowling coach after Allan Donald vacated the position following the 2015 World Cup.
As things stand, apart from Gibson, the team has Adrian Birrell, the assistant coach, Neil McKenzie, the batting coach, and Claude Henderson, the spin-bowling consultant, as the main men in the back room.
Speculation has been rife in the South African media that there could be more changes, but Gibson only said, “Obviously, Cricket South Africa have to make that happen. At the moment, there are just names of people that I think can do a good job with the team, some overseas, some local.”