For all but the most ‘old school’ cricket fans and aficionados, Ottis Gibson has pretty much said all the right things since his arrival in South Africa.
He spoke of improving cricketers as people as well as sportsmen, of where they “want to be” and about the ”legacy” they would like to leave behind. He asked whether the many, brilliant individuals in the national set-up still want to “climb the mountain” and whether they still have the will and determination to get back to the “top of the pile.”
They are good sentiments. South Africa has a tradition of ‘old school’ coaching in which ‘work ethic’ and the amount of blood and sweat shed during training sessions have counted for more than players’ psychological readiness for battle.
But does that mean Gibson is set to adopt a more laid-back, laissez-faire approach to training? Does it hell.
The Barbadian played first-class cricket until he was almost 40 and continued to improve. His final two seasons were statistically his best recording career-best figures with both bat and ball. As much as that was to do with understanding himself and his game so much better, it was also inextricably entwined with hard work.
The difference between the old guard and the new one when it comes to hard work, training and practise (and blood, sweat and tears) is that it is no longer prescribed. It is taken for granted. Whereas coaches used to bark orders at players and make them run laps, they now assume players will take that responsibility upon themselves. And should they neglect that responsibility, they will pay the price.
Financial rewards are Increasing all the time for the best players and Gibson is all too aware of that. Players need not just to ‘stay fit’ and maintain their conditioning, but to improve it all the time. There are always younger, stronger, more ambitious players coming through the ranks hungry to grab a share of the T20 millions. Gibson knows the senior players understand that. Which is exactly why he doesn’t need to say it. And why he can talk about desire and legacy. It may sound airy-fairy to the sergeant-majors of the coaching profession, but it makes perfect sense.
Gibson will be at the heart of the physical training and will expect every man to shed the required amounts of bodily fluid in their quest to improve. But he won’t demand it. He doesn’t need to.
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