'Chilled-out' Proteas thriving under Gibson

Ottis Gibson (Getty)
Ottis Gibson (Getty)

Cape Town - Ottis Gibson had said after a 2-0 Test series win against Bangladesh last October that his real tests would come later, and that only then should he be judged in his role as new coach of the Proteas. 

Now, after a long home summer, he is sitting pretty. 

The Proteas beat Virat Kohli's top-ranked India 2-1 in the new year before they became the first South African team to beat Australia in a home series - 3-1 - since 1970. 

Those are two massive scalps and, while they are still not back to No 1 in the world, the Proteas have made some serious inroads. 

In Gibson, South Africa has a leader who is as knowledgeable about the game as anybody. 

He lives and breathes the sport, is passionate about fast bowling and when he talks cricket he does so in a measured, thoughtful manner. 

He is also a human being, and the Proteas players will tell you how easy their new coach is to talk to. 

The 2019 World Cup remains the priority, and one would be foolish to try and translate Test form into ODI success, but indications are that the South African national side, as a whole, is in good hands under Gibson. 

"To win these two series, especially this one with all the other noise that had gone on, is quite rewarding," he told media at the Wanderers on Tuesday.

There certainly has been a lot going on. 

From stairwell confrontations, to on-field sledging, over-the-top wicket celebrations, suspensions, ball-tampering and tears, the cricket hasn't always been leading the headlines. 

"The one thing I do all the time is keep the support staff focused on the cricket," Gibson said.

"It was disappointing that after every game the story was not about the cricket. 

“I’ve been involved in two Ashes with England and there’s a lot of hype always around that. With this one, though, the story was never really the cricket and I thought there was some good cricket played that never really got the air time that it deserved."

The party would have gone deep into the Johannesburg night on Tuesday as the Proteas celebrated their latest triumph. 

Six months into the Gibson era, there seems to be change in the air. And while it is the Proteas transforming, there coach is keeping it as simple as possible.

"I’ve been myself and the way that I normally am," he said.

"I try to enjoy myself and take the pressure off. There is enough pressure on the cricket field so in the dressing room it is quite relaxed.

"There is rum and coke on the table, not at lunch time, and there is music in the dressing room.

"It’s quite a chilled-out place. If you guys (journalists) were to come in there I’m sure you would enjoy it as well, but you’re not invited."

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