Though South Africa have missed some of their regulars at various stages of the ongoing one-day international series at home against India, they didn’t expect to fall 4-1 behind with one game to go.
However, Ottis Gibson, the South Africa coach, has taken the reversal on the chin and while he accepted the “good hiding” his team have received, he said the results have given the team “a lot of food for thought” for the build-up to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
“It's been a good lesson and in a year's time I think it will prove to have been a good lesson to learn right now,” said Gibson after India won the fifth ODI by 73 runs in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday (13 February) to not just take an unassailable lead but also charge to No. 1 in the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Team Rankings.
“We've got a good hiding from India, let's not kid ourselves about that, but it's also given us a lot of food for thought going forward. Twelve months from now we'll be a lot stronger for having had this experience.”
Gibson, who replaced Russell Domingo as South Africa head coach in August 2017, rued the lack of fight on the part of his batsmen in the fifth game. “We succumbed quite easily tonight, to be bowled out in 42 overs is very disappointing from a batting point of view. Even with the bowling there were some soft boundaries, which has gone on the whole series. So just a bit more fight with the bat,” he said.
“The Indian spinners – Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav – got six wickets again. In each game they have picked up at least five wickets. I know that they are very good but we are also better than we have shown with the bat. I'd like to see us prove ourselves right in that regard. I thought at the halfway stage we gave ourselves a very good chance to keep ourselves in the series. We came this afternoon very optimistic that the series was still there to be drawn. To bowl them out for 270-odd (274/7) was a great effort from the bowlers, and we let ourselves down with the bat. There’s not a lot more to say than that. It’s something we have been talking about for five games now. We showed at the Wanderers that we can play better than we have done, but tonight was disappointing.”
Gibson also pointed to the fact that at least one of India’s top-three batsmen have scored big in every game, which the South Africans have not been able to, as another big reason for the way things have panned out. “The Indian top order is very experienced and they’ve played well,” said Gibson. “They’ve seen off the new ball or been able to score freely. We haven’t been able to hold the length very well. I keep saying to the bowlers that in order to control the scoring rate you have to control your length. Otherwise you can’t stop batsmen from scoring, and we’ve not been able to control length as well as we should be doing at this level and that’s allowed them to score quite freely at times.”
As for the Indian spinners – Yadav and Chahal have 16 and 14 wickets in the series respectively – Gibson hoped that with the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 being held in England and Wales, the two wrist-spinners wouldn’t have as much of an impact.
“When I came here we spoke about building for the World Cup. In England in June and July, I don't believe that the ball will spin as much as we've seen here. I think India has two world-class spinners and they might spin it anywhere, but we've got a whole year to learn to deal with that stuff. But I don't believe it will spin that much in England next year,” he said.
For the South Africans, AB de Villiers missed the first three games with a finger injury, Faf du Plessis, the regular captain, went out with a finger injury after the first game too, and Quinton de Kock joined them after the second with a wrist injury, leaving the side short of experience. And, with du Plessis going out, the captaincy reins were handed to Aiden Markram, who came into the series having played just one ODI.
Even as South Africa have lost four and won just one, Markram has had scores of nine, eight, 32, 22 and 32. “I don't know if the whole responsibility around captaining has been too much for him but it seems he is trying to bat in a way that is not the Aiden Markram I saw in September. I've spoken to him about that,” said Gibson.
“This (making Markram the captain) was a decision for the future, not a decision for now. Aiden has shown all the hallmarks of someone who is going to be a good leader and with Faf out we thought we could give him the opportunity. Looking back I think it was the right decision, I'm not going to second-guess myself.”