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Ottis Gibson: Is He the Right Man to Coach the Proteas?

Secrets and professional sports personnel go together like oil and water. If there is unreleased information about a player or coach within a team or club, you can bet your house that Joe Public is likely to find out ‘the skinny’ before anyone is supposed to know, possibly even before the respective parties themselves.

While the writing has been on Russell Domingo’s wall since the news broke at the end of January this year, that his position was being advertised (rightly or wrongly – but that is another article entirely); the question of who might apply or could be approached to take on the job, became a hot topic at coffee stations and pub tables around which cricket fans gathered, since the conclusion of this year’s opening month.

To further burden an overused cliché – Where there’s smoke, there’s fire…

Smoke

Domingo’s reluctance to neither confirm nor deny that he wanted to sign a new contract perhaps said more than enough about his position – his acceptance of the spotlight had died and he had had enough (even if he did reapply as a matter of course).

Then, with the Proteas locked in a tough Test battle with England, reports emerged that one of the Three Lions own was heavily linked with the seemingly vacant job.

Reports of compensation packages and announcement dates emerged and we, the general public, could see and smell the smoke. We could even feel the heat but that was no confirmation of fire. Cricket South Africa remained true to their processes and kept mum on the matter.

Fire

Enter the England Cricket Board on the second last day of August 2017 and suddenly not only were there flames but it was a wild fire!  CSA sought to quickly address the matter releasing a statement that confirmed the Proteas new coach: ex-Windies (formerly known as West Indies) all-rounder Ottis Gibson.

Is the former player, with over 400 matches worth of experience in all formats, stints as England’s bowling coach (twice) and the then West Indies Head Coach once, the right man for the job?

Taking nothing away from a man, who by all reports is a great person and very knowledgeable, I feel there are too many holes in his resume.

On purely win-loss ratios as a head coach (ties and draws excluded) – Gibson had 65 wins across all formats compared to 90 losses. While his win-loss ratio in T20 Internationals is 50%, with a world title to boot, his ratios in both Tests and ODI’s are below 40%. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the man we expect to help the Proteas to the next level, regardless of how good a bowling coach he is.

On top of that, he does not know the landscape of South African cricket. Yes, he played here back in the 90’s but the cricket and more over the political landscape in the sport back then was vastly different to what it is now.

Without knowing the thinking of neither the advisory panel nor who actually applied for the role, for my money, there are better candidates out there. If you want to give a foreigner with local experience a go then Eldine Baptise is a better option, having played at the highest level but also extensively in South Africa where he also coached at the Dolphins.

Then there is Phil Simmonds – while he also played at the highest level and was more statistically accomplished than his compatriots, he too played in South Africa for a period but more importantly he has extensive International experience as a head coach, having done his best with Zimbabwe, put in some great work with Ireland and even oversaw his beloved Windies to a World T20 title just last year.

Locally, one must feel for Geoffrey Toyana. The former Gauteng batsmen might not have played at the highest level but neither did Domingo, or Mickey Arthur. Toyana has made waves locally with his coaching. In many ways he is similar to Domingo in that he is lauded for his man management skills. He has also overseen the development of some of the Proteas most influential players in the recent past: Temba Bavuma, Chris Morris, Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada, and the exciting (is so far internationally inexperienced) pair of Eddie Leie and Wiaan Mulder. The most important thing going for Toyana is that he understanding the way sport, not just cricket, works in this country.

While he recently said in an interview that he feels he will achieve international recognition some day, I feel that he was very unlucky not to get it now.

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