After spending the last decade and a half in various coaching roles with England, West Indies and South Africa, Ottis Gibson, a former Test fast bowler, is now trying his hand at managing a T20 side, the Cumilla Warriors in the Bangladesh Premier League. In this interview he talks about the difference between international and franchise coaching, how to keep players from quitting Test cricket, and South Africa's bowling talent.
What has the experience of coaching in franchise T20 cricket been like?
It is very different. When coaching an international team, you get all the best players in the country. In a franchise team, you have four or five quality overseas players and then you have your local players. The key thing obviously is to get everybody to gel as quickly as possible. It is easier when you are winning. It is my first T20 league, and I find it fascinating, really.
What about it fascinates you?
It is about trying to build relationships, because you want a team - a team with the best performing players, but team spirit [also] goes a long way. You try to help players perform right now. This tournament is about performing right now. If I am working with a national team, then I have time to develop a player further. I have three years. Here we get five weeks.
I have to lean on the support staff, especially when it comes to knowledge of the local players. Where does this guy fit best - top or middle order? I have always been open to suggestions. If they have an idea that helps us win, I am all for that.
Has your coaching philosophy changed over time?
When I was working as a bowling coach, I tried to get four or five bowlers up to speed with what the head coach wants, in terms of their skill level and confidence. When you are working as a head coach, you have to look after everybody. It is about building relationships, which takes time. You have a two- or three-year contract. You have time to integrate new players into a system. You can sell your philosophy to the team. You are still trying to win a series, especially away from home, which is hard for every international team. Can we pick a team that gives us the opportunity to win?
Working with England, going to the West Indies, going back to England and working with South Africa - it has been a fantastic journey for me. I have enjoyed it. But I am also enjoying this next step in my career.
Every team is different. You try to get the best out of every single player. Ultimately, I want to feel that I have improved or had an impact on players. Every experience is different. When you see a progression in a guy you are working with, you see him start to perform. The confidence and smile on his face after he has had a good day in the field is really satisfying as a coach.
You will have bad days as well, but my philosophy is: never too high, never too low. You have a bad day - it is not the end of the world. [And] you don't get too far ahead of yourself when you have a good day. You try to maintain a balance. When you perform well, you can track the reasons for those good performances, the work that you have put in. When you are not performing so well, you can go back and look at it.
There are no shortcuts to success. Players have to put in the work. Sometimes a coach is the bad cop because he is driving the player all the time. The last thing a player wants is a coach who is nagging him to prepare, prepare and prepare. But you know that when you are prepared well, you give yourself the best possible chance of performing.
When you get to your superstar guys, who have done it for over ten years, they need a coach that gives them the room to perform. A young guy, on the other hand, needs to have a pre-performance routine that allows him to be consistent.
How do you look back at your most recent international stint, with South Africa?
I was very satisfied. Of course, the World Cup was a disaster, but I was very happy with everything that happened before the World Cup. We won quite a lot of Tests. We beat India and Australia in Tests. It was the first time South Africa had beaten Australia at home [since readmission]. We won a lot of ODI series leading up to the World Cup.
Getting players, like Aiden Markram, who made their debut in that period and are now cemented in the team - I am very pleased with the time I had over there. I wish it had continued but it wasn't the case. It is life in sport. Nobody has a god-given right to have a job for ten years.
How do you assess South Africa's bowling talent?
I spent a lot of time with [Kagiso] Rabada. His progression to No. 1 bowler in the world in six to eight months' time - is that me or him? It is surely him. He is the one with the talent. All I did was impart a little bit of my knowledge. He had a really good spell against Australia and India. He is a quality bowler. I am just happy to have played a small part in his journey as a cricketer.
I also spent a lot of time with [Lungi] Ngidi. His issues are going to be around his fitness. He is very talented. His fitness continues to let him down, and it is something he must address.
We saw [Anrich] Nortje last summer in the Mzansi Super League. We picked him for the World Cup, but unfortunately he got injured. My strategy for South Africa was to get the best fast bowlers, which would help us win matches at home. Dale Steyn got injured. Morne Morkel retired shortly after I got there. There's always been a hell of a lot of talent in South Africa. Watching the Test match the last couple of days [in Centurion against England], it is evident that there's a lot of talent there.
How does one prevent a drain of international talent to T20 club cricket?
There are certain guys set up for red-ball cricket but the financial lure of T20 cricket means that everybody wants to play that format. That is to the detriment of Test cricket. England have started to do red-ball and white-ball contracts. Other boards have to follow suit, otherwise the game loses players who can play Test cricket for a long time.
They want to follow the money in the franchise game and they miss out on a decent Test career. And boards miss out on good-quality Test players. If you look at Kraigg Brathwaite, he is not a T20 player but he is an outstanding Test batsman. When the other guys come back from the franchise league, he hears how great it is and how much money they are getting, he is thinking, "Jeez, I want to be a part of that." But if the board decides to pay 14-15 red-ball guys similarly for Test cricket, they don't have to chase the money. They can concentrate and be the best Test players they can be. That way, everybody wins. T20 guys are the real winners in cricket at the moment.
What's next on the horizon for you?
I have something to offer in international cricket. I like building relationships. This is an interesting little exercise for me, but I wouldn't mind getting back into international cricket at some point.