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Gibson's tenure twist: from honeymoon to nightmare

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Guess what Ottis Gibson? Valentine's Day seems an opportune time to tell you that the honeymoon is definitely over.

After easing in with a clean-sweep over Bangladesh in all formats and a one-and-a-half day win in a Test over Zimbabwe, you said the media would be the ones to decide when your dream start ended. We didn't think it would turn into a nightmare this quickly.

Of course we understood when you and Linda Zondi, the convener of selectors, said that, "Vision 2019" would mean results could take a backseat as you tried to widen the player pool but we didn't think you'd give winning the boot so emphatically. At least you seem to have accepted that your experimental, injury-ridden side is "not at good as it should be."

So, what now? Is the vision so blurred that you want new lenses, or at the very least some different personnel? It sounds like it. "I know we've been focusing on the World Cup, but I don't think the team that will go to the tournament is the one that you saw tonight. It's a long way to go yet." That's what you said after the series was lost in Port Elizabeth.

But if you're not going to take this group, who batting coach Dale Benkenstein called "the best team we've got," after the second ODI, even as he acknowledged the absence of Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers at the time, then who? "People that can use the new ball and get wickets at the top of the order. That will be essential in England."

You may want a new attack but the names on paper read like a pack that should be doing exactly as you wish. Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Lungi Ngidi and Chris Morris are four of your front-liners in the longer format but cannot seem to replicate that with the white ball.

You've identified length as one reason they've gone for so many runs. "We haven't been able to hold length very well. I keep saying to the bowlers that in order to control the scoring rate you have to control your length."

It may also be a case of them appearing one-dimensional - all four are tall, fast and rely on back-of-a length balls to a large extent - and variety could be an alternative. But your choices are scant. Left-armers Wayne Parnell and Beuran Hendricks both had poor one-day campaigns while Dane Paterson, who played against Bangladesh and finished fifth in the one-day cup was not considered. Vernon Philander might be an option but he hardly plays any white-ball cricket these days and Dale Steyn, well, you've said he should probably concentrate on Tests when he recovers.

And that's only the fast bowlers. As far as the line-up is concerned, where the real problems seem to be rooted, your answers seems to lie in the hope that when Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock return, things will get better. "We've got four batsmen in the top 10 in the world in this format and three of them are missing. You take three of your best batsmen out of any team in the world they will struggle, and when you do it against a very strong Indian team it has exposed us."

In du Plessis' case, you have a point, because he is the only South African batsman to score a century in the series but de Kock looked so out of form that his injury probably saved him from being dropped. De Villiers' sensational reputation has not extended to the point where you can rely on him consistently in a chase and while Hashim Amla has started to come into his own again, he cannot do it again.

And the rest need to be able to do more, often. JP Duminy simply has not produced enough runs for a man with 184 caps, David Miller needs to deliver more reliably, Farhaan Behardien, recognised as one of the best white-ball players on the domestic circuit, needs to play. Everyone else needs to learn to face wristspin, even if it won't be as much of a factor at the World Cup.

"When I came here we spoke about building for the World Cup. In England in May and June I don't believe that the ball will spin as much as we've seen here. I think India has two world-class spinners and they might spin it anywhere, but we've got a whole year to learn to deal with that stuff. But I don't believe it will spin that much in England next year."

Is it time to panic? You don't seem to think so.

"It's been a good lesson and in a year's time, I think it will be a good lesson to learn right now; just where we are with our cricket and our thinking, and the way we are going to play the game in the next 12 months before the World Cup. We've got a good hiding from India, let's not kid ourselves about that, but it's also given us a lot of food for thought going forward. Twelve months from now we'll be a lot stronger for having had this experience."

Just know that ODI cricket, after this series, is five months away in Sri Lanka and then, depending on whether a Global T20 happens or not, South Africa may play a white-ball series in Australia before hosting Sri Lanka and Pakistan. You've already said more one-day cricket would help, and that by the end of the Sri Lanka series you'd like a clear idea of your World Cup candidates. That's only one more series to experiment with and one more series to see if you can start a second honeymoon, which South Africa are hoping will end with a World Cup trophy.