The primary focus of new Proteas coach Ottis Gibson is to take the team back to the No 1 position in Test cricket.
‘The same way that players set goals, coaches also set goals. The goal for the Test team is to try to get to No 1,’ he said.
After the 3-1 series win over Australia, he can look back to a lost opportunity when the Proteas lost the third and final Test against India at the Wanderers. A 3-0 win over India would have propelled them to the top spot in Gibson’s first five months in charge. They now sit four ranking points behind India.
The Proteas missed out on reclaiming the Test mace, and a bonus of $1 million for being the No 1 team at the cut-off date of 3 April. Still, they picked up $500 000 (R6 million), as runners-up.
Gibson’s stint started with easy wins over Bangladesh and Zimbabwe before South Africa ― second in the ICC rankings ― took on top side India and third-ranked Australia in successive home series.
‘To win these two series, especially this one with all the other noise that has been going on, is quite rewarding,’ he said, referring to the controversies that surrounded the Australia tour. Australia captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were sent home and banned for their roles in ball tampering during the third Test.
‘It has been quite an experience, we have won eight out of 10 Test matches, and we won two big series, playing against two of the toughest teams,’ said Gibson. ‘Our goal was to be the first South African team since readmission to win a series against Australia at home,’ he said.
‘That was our focus in every game. When we lost in Durban, we didn’t play our best cricket, but in every game, we got better as we went on and we have seen some fantastic performances from young players like Aiden Markram leading the batting and Kagiso Rabada leading the bowling.’
Focusing on the one-day game ahead of the World Cup next year, after a 5-1 loss to India, Gibson reflected: ‘The result of the one-day series wasn’t great but I didn’t mind it. I know that the cricket fans who come to watch want the team to win, but from my point of view I got to see a lot of players we wouldn’t have seen if there weren’t so many injuries.’