ICC World Cup 2019May, 16, 2019
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Rabada, Steyn on track to full recovery before World Cup - Ottis Gibson
In a morale-boosting development for South Africa, head coach Ottis Gibson said that fast bowling duo of Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn are expected to recover in time for his team's World Cup 2019 opener against England on May 30.
Rabada was one of the stand-out performers in the just-concluded IPL (25 wickets in 12 matches) until a stiff back ruled him out before the playoffs. Dale Steyn was flown in mid-way through the tournament by Royal Challengers Bangalore as a replacement player, but he could only last two matches before a shoulder injury forced him to return to South Africa and put doubts over his World Cup participation. But Gibson reckons their injuries aren't anything for people to be 'alarmed about'.
"There was an issue with KG [Rabada] and there was an issue with Dale, but we feel that those guys are on track," Gibson said. "There's nothing that people should be alarmed about. They're going to both make full recoveries and be able to take their place at the World Cup."
Gibson also rubbished any notion of concerns surrounding the form of Hashim Amla, who recently opted out of the CSA T20 challenge mid-way through the tournament. Amla has scored just two hundreds and four fifties since October 2017, but has an average of 56.73 in England.
"Hash just wanted to get away from the T20 bubble of trying to hit every ball. Obviously he wasn't scoring big runs, so he felt like that was hampering his own preparation and his mindset of playing in England. We felt it was important to give him the space to do that. There was no real dramas of removing him from that T20 atmosphere," Gibson said.
Talking of the tournament, Gibson laid emphasis on the importance of weather in the England and hoped the familiarity with the conditions there within the coaching staff can hold the team in good stead.
"England can be interesting, it depends on the weather," Gibon said. "England lends itself to high-scoring games. The weather will play a part in that. I believe the conditions will play a huge part in the outcome of the World Cup. They are forecasting a hot spell coming up in the next couple of months, so perhaps the tracks will be a lot dryer."
Gibson, who has been England's bowling coach previously and still resides there hopes to pack in some insights about the conditions that his players can expect going into the showpiece event. Furthermore, there's a decade-worth of experience coming from batting coach Dale Benkenstein and spin bowling coach Claude Henderson, who have both played County cricket.
"I've had two stints in England and I still live in England. Claude [Henderson] had 10 years at Leicester. Dale Benkenstein played 10 years at Durham. So from a point of view of conditions, we can give insight," Gibson said.
South Africa could do with a bit of such insights, as they head into yet another World Cup with the pressure and weight of expectations as they're yet to get their hands on the coveted trophy. Worse still, they've also been labelled 'chokers' for the dramatic ways they've crashed out of a few of the previous editions of the tournament. Expectedly, Gibson explained that the current team - under Faf du Plessis's leadership - wasn't looking back on any of those horrors or speaking about it, and that they were happy to go into the tournament 'flying under the radar'.
"We have decided that we are not going to speak about it. One team has to win and one team has to lose, and then it comes down to how you guys (the media) write about the loss," Gibson said. "What's in the past is gone. We're not taking the past with us to this World Cup. It's a new adventure for us.
Another team that will carry massive weight of expectations will be hosts and South Africa's opponent in the tournament opener on May 30 - England. Gibson admitted England look very much like the tournament favourites and was happy for his own side to 'fly a little bit under the radar'.
"For us, to play the No. 1 team in the world, the favourite in the tournament, in their own country as well, in the first game, is great for us because it gives us a feeling of where we are as a team. We're not the favourites anymore. Normally we've gone as the favourites and it's not gone so well, so we're happy to fly a little bit under the radar and produce our best on the pitch.
Gibson also had words of praise for fellow Barbadian Jofra Archer, and reckoned England will find it hard to keep him out of the final squad.
"They have got a good thing going, Jofra Archer will add some spice to their attack and I can't see how they are not going to pick him to be honest. He is a guy from my home of Barbados, so I would be very happy to see him putting on an England shirt and playing in the World Cup," Gibson said.