Another injury in the Proteas’ group of fast bowlers for the upcoming Test series against Pakistan is a simply “unthinkable” thought for Ottis Gibson.
As a result, the national cricket coach is keeping his fingers crossed that Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn and Duanne Olivier all emerge from the final weekend of the Mzansi Super League unscathed.
Gibson is already without Lungi Ngidi, who’ll be missing the entire series against Pakistan with a knee injury, while Vernon Philander’s broken thumb means he won’t be fit for the first Test starting in Centurion on December 26.
“I really don’t even want to think about what would happen should there be another injury,” the West Indian mentor said on Friday.
“We’ve seen how Dale’s been going. I don’t want to say we’ve seen a transformation because he’s always been a top player, but he’s back to full fitness and performing like the player of old. KG as always is very important to us.
“We’ve looked at a few bowling options over the past 14 months and we’ve got what we feel now is a very good bowling attack and group. You’ve got Steyn, Rabada, Philander, Ngidi and Olivier, who’s been in-and-out, but always in our thinking. That’s the making of a good attack in any form of the game. My job now is to keep them fit and fresh for them to be at their peak at international level.”
To that end, South Africa’s Test bowlers won’t be playing in next week’s round of domestic four-day competition fixtures.
“If you look at where we are, Steyn, Rabada and Olivier become very important to us,” said Gibson.
“We just want to manage them as best we can. They won’t be playing.”
In contrast, all the batsmen will be expected to be included, particularly given the fact that they don’t have much time to adapt back to red-ball cricket from the helter skelter of the T20 format.
“I’ve found that it has been a challenge in the past. In T20 cricket you have to play shots at every ball. In Test cricket, one of your best shots in the first hour is the leave,” said the Proteas coach.
“I’d like the guys to get some of that. We’re trying to balance time in the middle with some rest. That’s still a conversation that needs to be had.”