TELFORD VICE in Cape Town
MUCH of what has been said and written about Ottis Gibson’s appointment as South Africa’s coach has centred on opinion.
Happily for his new employers and Faf du Plessis’ team almost all of those views have been positive.
But opinion is free. Facts are sacred. What do we know about Gibson’s coaching ability that isn’t based on what someone thinks?
Push will start coming to shove in that regard after Gibson is unveiled in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
For now we know that Gibson’s tenure as West Indies coach was not a success if we look at a picture bigger than the 2012 World T20 — which the Windies won.
Overall under Gibson, West Indies lost more games than they won in every format.
They went down 16 times in 36 tests and won nine. Of 93 one-day internationals they were victorious in 36 and beaten in 52. Twenty-three losses and 22 wins was the equation in their 47 T20s.
Gibson presided over 43 series, including tournaments, and won only 11. Seven of those were against minnows Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
All of which has to balanced against the facts that the Windies were running on almost empty for decades before Gibson took over and seem set to continue in that sorry fashion for years yet.
A shameful neglect on the islands of the game their teams once dominated and more poisoned politics than even a South African could shake a stick at are the main reasons for the Windies’ decline.
How much of what went wrong under Gibson’s watch was his fault is difficult to discern.
But he does know what a team in trouble looks and plays like, and South Africa were just such a team in England this winter.
That Gibson helped plot their downfall as England’s bowling coach can only be a positive in his new role: he had inside knowledge about why South Africa’s batsmen failed more often than not.
The trick will be for him to use that intelligence to sort out the problems.
Gibson’s honeymoon will last until the first ball is bowled in the series against Bangladesh in Potchefstroom on September 28.
South Africa are likely to pass that test as well as win the one-day and T20 rubbers that will follow, but then comes the hard part — series against India and Australia.
That an opinion, and it could be challenged given that Bangladesh are making progress as a team.
But, from here, it looks like a fact that the Indians and the Aussies will provide a more searching examination of what Gibson needs to do to get the former No. 1 ranked test team back up there.
Bangladesh have played 21 games in this country and won only one, a fact South Africans will hope remains intact.
That their only success was against West Indies will startle, but it shouldn’t — it came in the 2007 World T20, and did not involve Gibson in either a playing or a coaching capacity.