Image courtesy of: Zimbio
South Africa head coach Ottis Gibson has admitted that pace bowler Dale Steyn is set to miss the first Test against India on January 5 in Cape Town.
The Proteas are leaning towards a three-man pace attack and a specialist spinner for the match, but Gibson is set to stick with the trio of Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada rather than omitting one of them for Steyn.
Even though Gibson confirmed that Steyn had fully recovered from a shoulder injury that has kept him sidelined from international matches since November 2016, he does not want to risk bringing the 34-year-old back as should Steyn aggravate his injury, South Africa will only be left with two pace bowlers.
“Dale Steyn is fit again. But I don’t know just yet whether we will see him this week,” Gibson said. “He has had a year’s layoff. I don’t think if we were to pick a three-man seam attack plus a spinner that you would want to put him in that three-man attack, in case something happens and that leaves the team vulnerable if he can’t finish the game.
“That’s not to say that he won’t finish the game, but you don’t want to take that risk in the first game of the summer. He will come into the discussion but it depends on the formation of the team that we put on the field.”
While Steyn is virtually out of the first Test, Gibson hinted that the pace spearhead is likely to be used during the second and third Tests in Centurion and Johannesburg respectively.
“You’re looking at three different sets of conditions,” Gibson said. “Down here on the coast, the wicket tends to dry out quickly so you might play an extra bowler [all-rounder] here. Further up into the Highveld, it might be different. We have to take each set of conditions as we find them now and then pick the best team for them.”
If Steyn misses the first Test, he can use the time to get some much-needed match practice as he can play in three rounds of the ongoing domestic one-day cup.
“This is a world-class bowling attack and we’ve got to come up with the best combination to win this match and then think about the next one,” Gibson said. “But certainly this attack, if all those guys are able to take the field then this will be up there with the best ones.”
Even though Gibson has been tasked with leading the Proteas to World Cup glory next year, he admitted that the upcoming summer at home could very well define his tenure as head coach.
“In one-day cricket, I don’t worry too much about rankings because it’s built around a four-year cycle of World Cup cricket,” he said. “You can be No. 1 in the world and you don’t win the World Cup. It doesn’t matter where you are once you go to the World Cup.
“In Test cricket it’s different. You play a series against the best teams in the world and then the prize at the end of it is to reach the pinnacle and be called the best team in the world – even if it is just for a series or a week. The objective for this team is to try and get to No. 1.
“We feel strongly that if we win the next two series that will put us somewhere very close to being No. 1 again. The next two series will tell us [where we stand] or take us somewhere towards where we want to go. Everybody understands what we are trying to achieve.”