Gibbs ready to ‘party on behalf of SA’

PROTEAS legend Herschelle Gibbs is expecting the cricketing gods to smile on the Proteas in Barbados. | Archives

PROTEAS legend Herschelle Gibbs is expecting the cricketing gods to smile on the Proteas in Barbados. | Archives

Published Jun 29, 2024


“IF we end up winning, I will celebrate on behalf of all South Africa!”

These are the words of Herschelle Gibbs, and anyone who knows anything about the 50-year-old Proteas legend, that’s going to be one helluva party.

Gibbs played 361 times for the Proteas. This was divided between 90 Test matches, 248 one-day internationals and 23 T20Is. More importantly, he went to the crease in three World Cup semi-finals: Edgbaston 1999, St Lucia 2007 (both ODI World Cups) and Trent Bridge 2009 (World T20).

There were two further ICC Champions Trophy semi-finals in Colombo 2002 and Jaipur 2006.

But never did he, along with his entire generation of Proteas, have the opportunity that awaits Aiden Markram’s Class of 2024 today when they line up in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup final against India at the Kensington Oval in Barbados (4.30pm start SA Time).

It certainly is a sticking point in Gibbs’ distinguished career for he lived for the big stage. When the lights were at their brightest, that was when Gibbs shone the most.

It was here at the Wanderers back in 2007 when Gibbs launched the World T20, as the T20 World Cup was then known, in majestic style by matching Chris ‘Universe Boss’ Gayle’s century with an unbeaten 90 that had the Bullring rocking like it was hosting a Bruce Springsteen concert.

And unlike many of his contemporaries, Gibbs’ ODI (54.53) and T20I (24.29) averages at major ICC tournaments are far greater than his overall career record.

But in true Gibbs style, there are no regrets. He has instead taken on the role of the Proteas’ No 1 fan, even going as far as calling out a troll on social media as a doos for not celebrating the Proteas’ historic semi-final victory over Afghanistan earlier this week.

Due to his inherent desire to enjoy every living moment and self-proclamation of never having read a book in his life, Gibbs was rarely seen as captaincy material.

But this belied a finely-crafted feel for the game and immense cricket intelligence, much the same way Quinton de Kock is viewed these days.

It is for this reason that Gibbs, who still rates the late Hansie Cronje as the best Proteas skipper he ever played under, has developed a great admiration for Markram’s astute leadership during this T20 World Cup.

“Aiden’s decision-making has been really good. The changes regarding who bowls when and where, his understanding of the situation has been really good. And he has made some really big calls,” Gibbs told Independent Newspapers at the Wanderers.

“That last over from Keshav (Maharaj) against Bangladesh, bowling a spinner against a subcontinent team, to make a call like that was a big thing, and it worked.

“I think he shows a lot of composure in regards to reading a situation.”

As a batter, Gibbs was aesthetically pleasing on the eye, playing delectably straight, elegant of touch, but also possessing the speed of hands and feet to haul out his trademark lofted extra cover drive.

But the key was his ability to adapt to different surfaces and rein in his attacking repertoire when the situation demanded, which is why Gibbs has appreciated the way the Proteas batters have negotiated some tricky surfaces in both the US and the Caribbean.

“I have liked the way the batters have gone about their business on wickets that do a bit, because they have done a lot, maybe too excessively at times, but it’s also brought a lot of batters down to earth in regards to how good they exactly are,” Gibbs said.

“Average batters look world class on complete flat decks, hit through the line of the ball, it doesn’t turn, and I think the game needed to be brought back down to earth in a way.”

Although Gibbs never had the opportunity of playing in a World Cup final, he enjoyed the consolation of being part of a youthful South African team that beat a full-strength Australian side to win Commonwealth Games gold in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.

He also had the distinction of winning the Indian Premier League with the now-defunct Deccan Chargers right here at a sold-out Wanderers, with Gibbs stroking a match-defining 53 not out back in 2009.

“A final is the ultimate!” Gibbs enthused.

“You just know there is going to be crowds, it’s going to be loud, there is going to be noise, there is going to be atmosphere. And those are the games that I used to thrive on,” he said.

“I never allowed the occasion to get the better of me. I always played the situation as a batter always should, given the surface you are playing on, and not panic.

“I remember saying to ‘Gilly’ (Adam Gilchrist), because Anil Kumble was bowling, and I said let’s just have a look here, and second ball he went charging down the wicket and got stumped.

“So, I just told myself, ‘okay, the onus now lies on you, take the responsibility on your own shoulders’. Playing the situation is vital irrespective of how big the situation is. You have to find a way to get the job done.

“The boys just have to keep the momentum running, because T20 is all about momentum, and it’s with them.

“They haven’t gone through any washed out games like some of the other teams. They have had to do it the hard way.

“I have always said if they get to the final, the ‘cricket gods’ will smile on us. I’ve said it already, if we end up winning, I will celebrate on behalf of South Africa.”