Sport

Side Entry: Options aplenty to replace Gibson, but let’s rather focus on the World Cup

2019-02-10 07:59

Of the many things that have recently occupied my mind about the Proteas – and I have woken up at 3am thinking about the poor blighters – the coach’s succession plan has not been one.

This being a World Cup year, I haven’t been able to get the Proteas out of my mind.

Hashim Amla’s drying well of runs and inability to catch a cold, let alone the ball, has been a recurring theme; what to do with the number seven spot is becoming a complex mathematical problem; and I’ve literally written about 10 different 15-man squads in the past three months (damn you, Rassie van der Dussen).

But I haven’t once thought about Ottis Gibson’s future after the World Cup, something my harder working colleagues have clearly kept tabs on.

After polite enquiries last month, it emerged that, as things stand, Gibson would have to win the World Cup – something no other Proteas coach has done – to keep his job.

And now there’s talk about Gibson going back to England after the World Cup to take over from Trevor Bayliss, a notion that has been given legs by some of the English players making all the right noises about how much they’d loved working with him and would be glad to have him back.

The odds on Gibson heading back to England were always great because when he signed with Cricket SA (CSA) last year, it was made abundantly clear that he would coach the Proteas until the World Cup, and that whoever his assistant was would be getting groomed to take over from him.

But, in the meantime, thanks to a personality that is a curious mix of laid-back and brooking no-nonsense, he has made friends and influenced people in his time here to the extent that CSA chief executive Thabang Moroe would love to retain his services.

There’s no bull with Gibson, which has gone down well in a country where doublespeak has become the norm, especially among coaches.

His popularity is not limited to his bosses, his players or his coaching colleagues – it extends to us infamously fickle media, who appreciate an honest answer.

From a playing perspective, Gibson has introduced the ultra-aggressive approach, which has seen most Proteas tests finish well inside five days.

With the “sporting” wickets he has demanded, it’s a style that has dented many a Proteas batsman’s average as the focus has been on the bowlers – five of them at times – taking 20 wickets with almost indecent haste.

But it wouldn’t be a surprise if Gibson was, indeed, keen on going back to England, where he was successful as their bowling coach before taking up the job with the Proteas.

He lives there, his wife and child are there, and living in hotels in South Africa during our international summer must be killing him.

And we haven’t even spoken about the gulf in the money he would earn there and the resources that would be at his disposal. But who would replace him if he were to go?

Proteas assistant coach Malibongwe Maketa would be in pole position for the job, having got his current gig after guiding the Warriors to two white ball finals before joining the national side.

Former Proteas wicketkeeper Mark Boucher would be another one in contention after a trophy-laden start to his coaching career at the Titans.

There has been a dip in the overachieving this season, but Boucher’s record as an international will command his respect, much like his record as a coach should.

Former Proteas batsman Ashwell Prince is in the process of moulding the Cobras in his feisty, no excuses image in his second season as a coach.

The only thing missing from his claims is his failure to win a trophy yet, having made the final of the Mzansi Super League and led the four-day competition until the last day of the season without winning.

The dark horse is the Pep Guardiola-obsessed Lions coach Enoch Nkwe, who beat Prince to both those titles in his first season in charge.

Simply put, the options are not only plentiful, they’re actually worthy of lengthy debate.

But, for now, can we please sort out what Van der Dussen’s best batting position is for the World Cup?

* Follow me on Twitter @Simxabanisa

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May 19 2019