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ICC CRICKET WORLD CUP

June 8, 2019

Ottis Gibson

Southampton, England, UK

Q. Obviously a bit of unwanted distraction landed in you guys' lap the morning after the India game. How has that affected the team, how are they feeling about it?
OTTIS GIBSON: I guess the players are disappointed that it's come out at the time that it's come out. But when we spoke, when we got together in camp, we spoke about managing distractions, and that was one of the things that we said could come up, so I don't imagine it's going to affect the way that we play cricket. We haven't played very well so far, but yeah, it is disappointing.

Q. When did you first learn of AB's availability and did you want him in the squad?
OTTIS GIBSON: Good question. When did I first learn? AB called me. I think it was the morning that the squad was going to be announced. A lot of other things had gone on before that, of course. The statement that was put out said that he was told if he wanted to be available (for the World Cup) that Pakistan and Sri Lanka were tours that he had to make himself available for, and obviously he didn't. But I think it was the morning of when the squad was going to be announced that I got told, either the night before or the morning of. I can't remember.

Q. You were in South Africa at the time?
OTTIS GIBSON: No, I was in England.

Q. And he was obviously... where would he have been? In India?
OTTIS GIBSON: I believe so, yeah.

Q. Just to clarify, if he's been told that he would have had to make himself available for Sri Lanka and Pakistan, that conversation would have happened the year before, was that after his retirement, and was it a concrete retirement or was the back door always possibly open?
OTTIS GIBSON: Well, I can't answer whether it was a concrete retirement. It was his decision. He made the decision. I actually saw him in December. When I came back on December 12th there was a Mzansi League game at SuperSport Park when I saw him briefly on the field, he was spinning a toss, I was doing an interview on the ground, and I said, Are you finished with this retirement nonsense yet, and he said, Look, I'm happy with my retirement. I'm happy with the decision I've made and so on, and that was the end of that.

As far as the Proteas were concerned, as far as I was concerned, that was the conversation I had with him. He also called me the day that he did retire in May. I don't think you should have to beg a guy to play for his country, but I did make it clear that I thought he was making a bad decision, that he could help us win the World Cup, and he said he had made his decision and it was time to spend time with his family, and that was the end of that really.

Q. Just to clarify, on the eve of announcing the squad, was that a shock to you, the fact that you then got this message that he's again put his hand up?
OTTIS GIBSON: Yeah, of course. You know, because we had moved on. The interesting thing, I was thinking about this whole thing just since the news came out, I was thinking to myself, because since he's retired we've won every series that we've played, and I haven't had many AB questions, and I sat with some of you (members of the media) in Cape Town during the camp, and we sat for 20 minutes or half an hour, and there wasn't one AB question like that.

Suddenly we've come to the World Cup and we've had one bad week, and AB is the savior, but the guy is retired, he's made his decision, and we as a team, and I guess you guys, as well, we have to live with the decision that he's made and he has to live with the decision that he's made. To come the day before and say that he'd come to come back would seem a little bit strange to say the least.

Q. Are you concerned about the timing? Sorry, the timing of the leakage of the fact that this actually happened. It could have happened on the day the squad was announced, it could have happened after the World Cup started, but it's happened after you lost three games.
OTTIS GIBSON: Whenever it happened doesn't matter. The fact is he made his decision, and he's said continuously since then that he's happy with the decision that he's made. So then to come the day before the squad is being announced... Personally I suspect that there are a lot more people wanting AB to be here than AB himself because I believe that if AB wanted to be here, he would be here. But he is wherever he is in the world right now and doing exactly what he wants to be doing. If he wanted to be here, he would be here. That's how I see it.

Q. When he phoned you on the day of the announcement...
OTTIS GIBSON: Are we just going to talk about him the whole time? You know we are preparing for West Indies, as well.

Q. I'm sure that you spoke to Faf. Did Faf know about AB's desire to come back, and if so, when did Faf find out? When did AB find out about Faf?
OTTIS GIBSON: Listen, the way it happened, it happened so long ago. I can't be sure who knew first or whatever, so I don't really want to be saying things out of turn. But he spoke to Faf, I think they were in the IPL or whatever and then Faf phoned me to tell me what was going on, and then at some point sometime after that he then phoned me just to ask... to say that he... I can't remember his exact words, but the fact is that he said is there any chance he could come back, and I said, well, I'll have to obviously speak to Cricket South Africa, and I spoke to the chairman of the selectors, and we all came to the conclusion that he left it too late. A lot had happened since then. We had moved on.

Q. And when Faf told you, phoned you from the IPL, were you two discussing this and saying we want AB to go?
OTTIS GIBSON: No. We had decided already that he left it too late because the door was left open up until December, and then after that to come this late in the day... he knew, if he really wanted to, he knew that those 10 games against Pakistan and Sri Lanka were vitally important for us because from March to the World Cup we won't have any more cricket. But again, he knew that, and he's made his choice.

Q. Obviously you've faced the West Indies before. A lot of guys come in and out (of the team). A guy like Chris Gayle, he came back and he played the home series to qualify for the World Cup. Does that indicate the desire to want to be involved? When a guy like Chris Gayle who's the ultimate T20 freelancer wants to come back put his name in and said I'll go to Zimbabwe for prelims or whatever?
OTTIS GIBSON: But to my knowledge Chris Gayle never retired. He never retired. I coached Chris, and he never retired. So he might opt out of a series or whatever through injury, but he's never retired, to be fair to him. But AB retired. I can't ever recall in recent history a team picking a guy that's retired. I can't remember it.

Q. Just as a clarification, again, was the whole team aware that AB had asked to play again and the whole team was made aware that the request had been refused and everybody knew this could come out?
OTTIS GIBSON: When he made the call, I don't think the whole team knew, but I think we spoke about it briefly in camp in Cape Town.

Q. Did it come as a surprise? Were some guys a little bit shaken up?
OTTIS GIBSON: Look, nobody is shaken up. Nobody has died or anything. Like I said, when we played in South Africa and we won eight of the last ten games or whatever, you guys weren't asking those sort of questions. You were focusing on the team. Of course it's come as a distraction, but to me more distracting is the level of our playing. We're not playing as well as we can do, and that's to me more important than whether AB comes back or not come back. He's not here, and the guys that are here deserve to be here. They've put a lot of work in and we've moved on from that as a team.

Q. When you said Faf told you about AB's initial offer, when did he tell you?
OTTIS GIBSON: They were playing in the IPL.

Q. It was during the IPL?
OTTIS GIBSON: They were playing in the IPL so I imagine they would have played against each other or something in the IPL, and then there was a discussion between them two, I think, and then he called me to say well, I've just had this conversation.

Q. That was during the IPL?
OTTIS GIBSON: That was during the IPL, yeah.

Q. How close would you say it was to April 18th when the squad was announced, a couple of days before?
OTTIS GIBSON: I don't know. I don't know. All I know is that I didn't get the call from AB himself. When I did get it from him, I told him that I would speak to Cricket South Africa, but my immediate reaction would be that you've left it too late. That's what I said. You can quote me on that. That is what I said.

Q. To try and maybe segue a little bit, this is a side that is struggling with runs and batsmen are short of confidence, and that's one of the reasons why the side has been struggling. Has this AB thing put more pressure on the batsmen to perform?
OTTIS GIBSON: No, I would want them to flip it the other way and then to go and make runs and show that I actually deserve to be here. Because in the series that we've won since AB left, those same batsmen were making runs. Rassie came in and Rassie was averaging 80 or something by the time he got here. He's made three or four half centuries. Hash was struggling but Hash is looking really good. Aiden has been struggling but he started to make some runs in the last series as well, so the guys have been making runs, and we've been winning. We've come to the World Cup and it's been tough. We haven't won. We haven't played well. And the message that I've said to the players is that the World Cup is a six-week tournament. We've had a bad week. We're the only team that had three games in a week. We've had a bad week. We lost all three games.

So now we've got one game on Monday, then we've got another opportunity to regroup. We've had a couple of really good days off where we've had some really honest conversations and we've got away from the game a bit. But let's say we have a good week next week and we win two or three games, then suddenly the whole thing changes.

But it's only us that can change it, and we can talk about AB all we want, but he's not here, so he can't help us. We've got to do it. And the players in the dressing room, I have every confidence that they will do it because they've done it before. We went to Australia and won a series. It was 1-1 in that series in Australia, and we said, okay, we're going to play this game like it's a Cup final, like it's a World Cup final. David got an unbelievable hundred, Faf got a hundred, and we won that game. So we know that we can play cricket. But we just have to keep believing in ourselves and in the people that we have here on tour with us.

Q. At the tournament itself, South Africa like you say hasn't played good cricket but it looks as though the decision making in terms of, you've got Aiden Markram in the squad, you add Hampshire, you don't pick him to play, can you explain that?
OTTIS GIBSON: I was going to say something like he's not playing for Hampshire, but I understand what you're saying. But when we look at the team that we needed to play against India with and with their spin threat, we thought if we picked our best players of spin that that would help us. It obviously didn't because spin still got five wickets. But the decision was based around that.

Q. What confidence can you take from the last three games going forward into this tournament?
OTTIS GIBSON: I think if you look at it, and I've said this to the players also, when you look at World Cups and teams that win World Cups, the best players or the seniors are the ones that carry the team, and the youngsters, obviously they fill in and they do their job, as well. And so far the seniors haven't really taken as much of a leadership role as I would expect, as we're going to need. So we've had that conversation around our best players performing. We've had a couple of fifties, but we've not had any really big significant hundreds. We've got batsmen that are used to scoring hundreds. The thing for me is that for 18 months we were building a bowling attack around Steyn, Rabada, Ngidi, Tahir and players like that, and what has happened with the two injuries has sort of decimated the bowling attack a little bit. So we've been bowling teams out in South Africa for 260 and getting to 260 sometimes quite comfortably. We've come to the World Cup and we don't have that bowling attack, so it's even more important that the batters take a lot more responsibility than they've shown already.

Q. This West Indies team has evolved over the years since you were involved with them. You mentioned in an earlier press conference when you were asked about your thoughts on Jofra, but can you just tell about this current team and the threats they pose and how different they are to previous West Indies teams that have come to World Cups?
OTTIS GIBSON: Look, I think obviously they played really well against India. They had to qualify, which I know would have hurt them, and they went to the qualifiers and they got into the World Cup, and it's great from a cricket point of view that they got into the World Cup, and they're always dangerous when they come to World Cups. Chris is playing very well at the moment. They've decided it seems that they're going to go with an all-out attack with the way they've set the team up with four and five fast bowlers and stuff like that. West Indies teams have always been dangerous, and this one is no different. There are a lot of players there that can win matches. They've always had match winners, and I know that it's going to be a tough game tomorrow, they would have won the last game, but they're still full of confidence, I think, from the way they played against Pakistan.

Q. Against India in the field, you obviously created a lot of opportunities up front and things could have gone differently. They seem to be a lot more passionate in the field from the outset. Can you put your finger on why the passion maybe wasn't there in the first two games, and what has changed?
OTTIS GIBSON: Just honest conversations. We accepted, to ourselves anyway, that we let ourselves down with the way that we've played, the way that we've approached the first two games. In a tournament we can't afford to start slow, and obviously that's exactly what happened to us, and we said we need to give ourselves a shake and we need to have a lot more commitment in the field, but also with the small total that we made, also when you look at the way KG came out especially, that sort of gave everybody a spark because we felt 220, but know that it's a bit tight, but 250 we felt like we were in the game on that pitch. We didn't expect the pitch to play the way it did, especially for the seamers. But the start from KG I would imagine gave everybody a lift, and we felt at that point that we had a real chance if we got early wickets that we could have still defended that score, even from the Indian team.

Q. Is Lungi fit, and if not, will you bring in Beuran Hendricks directly, or will Shamsi play again or maybe Pretorius? What's the thinking there?
OTTIS GIBSON: It's nice that you've given us some options. Lungi is improving every day. Look, he could probably play, but it would be a bit of a risk, so we'll have to keep monitoring him. Tomorrow is another day. We'll have to see where the physio and medical team tells us he is tomorrow. But I think he might be a bit of a risk tomorrow. And then Beuran and everybody else comes into the conversation then for the next game for sure.

Q. And Rassie?
OTTIS GIBSON: Rassie is fine, yeah. He's fine.

Q. Obviously Dale has gone home now, but given the fact that he didn't bowl a ball in this World Cup and it's now come out that he was not 100 per cent fit when you picked the squad, in hindsight would you make that decision again if you had it again?
OTTIS GIBSON: No, that's not entirely accurate. He wasn't injured when we picked the squad because the squad was picked in April, and after the squad was picked he played for the Titans. But what happened is he went to the IPL and came back injured. In hindsight probably he wouldn't go to the IPL, but you wouldn't not pick him. If Dale Steyn is fit, then Dale Steyn, I think he's shown over the two years that I've been in South Africa, when he's been fit he's been a champion. Like I said, we spent two years building an attack around him for his experience and his pace and what he's bringing to the group, not just with his bowling but for his conversations around the nets and so on, and him and Lungi and KG and so on. Look, it was disappointing to bring him. When I spoke to and I saw his medical team in Cape Town during the camp, and they said, look, he should be ready. Give him 10 days, he should be ready, and we kept giving him that time, but things weren't moving forward, and he then decided -- well, we decided I don't know that this is going to work out, so therefore the decision was made to make that change.

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