JOHANNESBURG – Ottis Gibson would have liked the World Cup to start this week.
He has a team with players who are in form and in rhythm, so that is perfectly understandable. But instead they will have about two months to go “cold” or get injured and it is worrying for the Proteas coach.
“There was a day last week when I thought ‘I wish the World Cup was next week.’ We are in such good form at the minute and confidence is high and there is a great team spirit,” Gibson stated in the wake of South Africa’s success in the limited-overs matches against Sri Lanka, which they swept 8-0 across the one-day internationals and T20 series.
The World Cup starts on 30 May, with South Africa and England playing the opening match of the tournament at The Oval.
But between now and then, a lot of balls will be bowled, hit and caught, and Gibson, despite his ultra-cool exterior, will be a nervous on-looker.
The South African squad will be named on 18 April and it will gather for a week-long training camp on 12 May, the first half of that camp taking place in Cape Town, before the players and coaches relocate to Gauteng for the conclusion.
12 May is also the date for the final of the IPL meaning some members of the squad could arrive late for World Cup preparations.
“What we have said to guys is that they must understand what the big picture is, with regards to the Proteas,” said Gibson. “The guys at the IPL all have individual programmes around their fitness, but also around their cricket so that when we get together on May 12, there are no niggling injuries – we don’t want to be taking injuries into a six-week World Cup. Hopefully that will take care of itself and we’ll just get on with it from there.”
The IPL is the really scary period for Gibson. It is understood that Cricket SA’s chief executive Thabang Moroe was in India for the start of that competition last weekend and held meetings with officials from the league. Top of the agenda was trying to ensure that Faf du Plessis, Kagiso Rabada and Quinton de Kock weren’t overworked by their respective IPL franchises.
“We have to sit with fingers crossed,” Gibson remarked.
“In my experience from working with teams in the IPL is that someone always comes back with an injury, so we pray that none of our guys pick up something that is too serious that will rule them out of the tournament.”
Beyond just the results of the ODI series against Australia last year, which SA won 2-1 and then the victories against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Gibson has also been happy with the versatility the group has illustrated, saying that element will be vital for South Africa’s World Cup challenge.
— Maphuti Hlako (@maphuti_africa) March 25, 2019
“We’ve been practicing game plans for a while now, putting people in situations we think we can use them in in the World Cup,” said Gibson.
“We’ve seen different bowling attacks, the two spinners playing in the same attack, batsmen moving up and down the order and we feel that if we get the 15 guys that we want, we will have a lot of variation in how we can set up the team. That’s what we will need in England. I don’t think you can play the same 11 people in a World Cup and expect to win it.
One player who has not seen much game time recently is Hashim Amla who is tending to his ill father, and Gibson said Amla will be given all the time he needs.
“Family takes precedence over everything else. We need to give him the time that he needs to be with his family and then we will make a decision just after that,” Gibson said.