Otis Gibson speaks on the bowling options available, strategy decided against Sri Lanka
What's the story?
Current coach of the South African national side, Otis Gibson seems to have concrete plans set for Sri Lanka as the Proteas gear up to face the Islanders at their grounds, starting July 12. It is widely speculated that the South Africa squad will feature three front-line pacers in the Test matches against the Lankans, and Gibson does not brush away those as mere thoughts.
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The Sri Lankan conditions are new for Ngidi and Rabada as this will be their first ever Test match in the island nations. They are yet to receive exposure of bowling on low, crumbling surfaces, and chances are that they will not succeed much.
Rabada has previously played in subcontinental conditions only in India, where he averages a high and ineffective 55.00. Ngidi has played only three Tests so far, all of those at home where he was exceptionally good, however.
The hot weather might pose another problem for the visitors. Gibson hinted that the bowlers will be used in short spells so that they may have to recuperate between spells. Gibson also revealed how Ngidi's consistency with pace has been a relief for the team. It is hence evident that coach intends to use his youngsters very well throughout the series.
Dale Steyn is the only South African pacer who has proven himself to be well in Sri Lanka, averaging 24.71 and having picked up 21 scalps across four Tests. However, there have been a lot of issues over injuries and the like for the former Test No.1 bowler, and he has played cricket only sporadically across the past couple of years.
Steyn however, was the match-winner in the previous game when the two teams locked horns in Sri Lanka, and he will be looking to make his experience count as he returns to the Test arena once again.
The heart of the matter
The decision to play three pacers in the Protean team will stay no matter what the pitch conditions will look like, according to Otis Gibson. This will be an extreme contrast to their rivals, who will be playing with at least three spinners and probably just one pacer, in their own home conditions, which also seems a sensible move especially knowing how dusty the pitch will be, which in facilitate the turning ball. But not to Gibson.
According to him, pace bowling has been "the bedrock" of their successes in International cricket for a long time. That, coupled with the names available in the roster for him to pick from - Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander and so on - has probably coerced the coach to stick to his usual routine in team line-up.
But despite the seeming depth in pace-bowling, Gibson is aware that his boys will have to "dig deep" to reap rewards. The conditions in Sri Lanka are very different from those in home, where the South Africa pacers outfoxed the Kangaroos in their most recent encounter.
They even got a taste of what to expect in the coming days when they recently played a practice match at Colombo. The Protean pacers were able to extract only one wicket in the forty-four overs they bowled between them.
At the same time, the Sri Lankans are also aware of the fact that the can't think of staging a pace-vs-pace battle with what is arguably the best ranked pace-bowling side in the world.
Just a week ago, the Sri Lankan pacers were able to hold the Windies batsmen hostage at their own grounds, but the Windies batting strength is something that cannot be compared with that of South Africa either. Hence they will most probably decide to go with what suits best at their own home, which will be a mix-and-match combination of various spin bowlers.
The two-match Test series between the two teams starts July 12, and afterwards, the two teams will play five ODIs and one T20I in a separate pair of limited over series.
Do you agree with South Africa's apparent strategy of using more pacers in sub-continent conditions? Tell us in the comments below!