If he’s fit, he plays – Gib­son

The Mercury - - SPORT - Stu­art Hess

IF DALE STEYN says he is fit to play, then he’ll be put straight back into the Proteas Test team for the Box­ing Day en­counter with Zim­babwe, Ot­tis Gib­son said yes­ter­day.

Steyn, pic­tured, is ex­pected to be back on the field for the Ti­tans when they start the de­fence of their T20 Chal­lenge ti­tle in just un­der a fort­night, and Gib­son is not con­cerned that the 34-year-old fast bowler won’t have played any first-class cricket since in­jur­ing his shoul­der in Aus­tralia a year ago.

“He’s got a lot of cricket (he can play), al­beit T20 cricket be­fore the Tests but there’s also a lot of time where we can build up his work­load and we can see if he’s 100 per­cent fit,” said Gib­son.

Steyn has played just five of South Africa’s last 25 Test matches – over a pe­riod span­ning two years. He broke down in­jured in the mid­dle of three of those five Tests – once with a groin prob­lem, and on the other two oc­ca­sions with shoul­der ail­ments, the last of those com­ing against Aus­tralia in Perth 12 months ago.

While Steyn, who has played 85 Tests, has re­port­edly made a full re­cov­ery and posted videos of him­self on so­cial me­dia prac­tic­ing in the nets, it would still be un­der­stand­able if there were con­cerns about him get­ting through a match and even a se­ries with­out in­hibit­ing his team again.

Gib­son, for now, isn’t shar­ing those con­cerns.

“It’s Dale Steyn,” said the Proteas coach, “not some av­er­age guy from down the road. He’s one of the best fast bowlers the coun­try’s ever pro­duced, if you look him in the eyes and ask ‘Dale can you make it?’ and he says he can, then he’s given that op­por­tu­nity.”

A re­turn to full fit­ness for Steyn will help ease some of the con­cerns for Gib­son fol­low­ing his first month in charge. While re­sults against a poor Bangladesh out­fit have been very good, Gib­son said his big­gest worry was en­sur­ing a few key play­ers get back to full fit­ness ahead of a very busy sum­mer for the na­tional team.

“Per­haps fit­ness is some­thing we need to look at go­ing for­ward. It’s not easy when you have that many, qual­ity play­ers, who would most likely be in the team, in­jured, there­fore that’s some­thing we have to look at… we have started to look at how we can make that side of things bet­ter,” he said.

Be­side’s Steyn, Gib­son was with­out Ver­non Phi­lan­der for the en­tirety of Bangladesh’s tour, while Morne Morke, tore an ab­dom­i­nal mus­cle in the first Test, and Duanne Olivier hurt his knee in the sec­ond. Phi­lan­der came through the Cape Co­bras’ last Sun­foil Se­ries match in­di­cat­ing his readi­ness for the rest of the sea­son, while Morkel is set to re­turn for the lat­ter half of the T20 Chal­lenge.

Gib­son pro­vided some clar­ity about Morkel’s fu­ture: “We had a re­ally good hon­est dis­cus­sion and he’s com­mit­ted his fu­ture to us over the next cou­ple of years. Ob­vi­ously the World Cup is a big thing, and he’s well aware there can be no guar­an­tees. In 2019, it will be form, fit­ness and con­di­tions – that sort of stuff (that will be con­sid­ered).”

Gib­son, who will head back to Eng­land for a few weeks to­mor­row, said his ini­tial in­ter­ac­tions with the SA team had been en­joy­able.

“Peo­ple have said Bangladesh might not have been great op­po­si­tion, but we still have to play the way we want to play and we have been able to do that. As a new coach it couldn’t re­ally have gone much bet­ter,” Gib­son said.

“We’ve been able to play a dom­i­nat­ing brand, front-foot cricket I called it when I first came.”

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