A Cobra waiting to strike

Herschelle Gibbs believes that he has another three to four years of cricket left in him.-V. GANESAN

Herschelle Gibbs, the cavalier batsman, is 37. But he says he is “far from finished” and is gunning for national selection in the Twenty20 World Cup to be held next year in Sri Lanka. By Arun Venugopal.

Breaking ice with a cricketer doesn't get much easier than this. Herschelle Gibbs strides briskly towards us and picks up the microphone to do “mike tests”. “How are you sir, tell me sir,” he announces himself with a mischievous grin.

One look at Gibbs and a glut of images — that have served to establish his stereotype over the years — pop up in the mind. His more popular avatars include being a fluidic striker, electrifying fielder, and of course, finding himself in the epicentre of controversies.

The 37-year-old's multi-hued journey was documented in his 2010 autobiography, ‘To the Point.' For a man who once proudly claimed to have never read a book, his own story ruffled more than a few feathers. The book, which had frank accounts of cliques in the team and abnormal behaviour involving his colleagues, landed him in trouble. The former South African opener's national contract was promptly terminated.

A year later, Gibbs has no baggage of that worrisome period. “There wasn't much of a controversy really. I think it's my honesty which caught people by surprise. It's interesting to see that,” he smiles.

In India with the Cape Cobras to play in the Champions League (CL) Twenty20, Gibbs insists his spontaneous style of batting is still intact. “I am an instinctive player. I still don't know why I play certain strokes,” chuckles Gibbs.

While affirming that he is “far from finished”, the cavalier batsman is gunning for national selection in the Twenty20 World Cup to be held next year in Sri Lanka. “I am certainly not finished. Age, to me, is irrelevant. Guys like Mark Ramprakash and Sanath Jayasuriya are still going strong. I still enjoy each and every game I play and feel that I have a good three-four years ahead of me.”

Gibbs hopes that the CL T20 will be a stepping stone to his comeback. “I have done well in the domestic one-day competitions in the recent past. With a little bit of luck, I hope I can prove things to people back home.”

The topic of discussion, inevitably, turns towards the recent developments in South African cricket.

According to Gibbs, Gary Kirsten's appointment as coach is the biggest positive to have emerged in recent times. “From what I have heard, Gary has given the Proteas a sense of calm. Some of the coaches in the past were very nervy, especially before big tournaments. With the kind of success Gary has had with the Indian team, he will certainly do well with South Africa. So, that's a good appointment”.

The Cape-Town born cricketer is also grateful for the support that Kirsten has extended to him. “He is a very fair individual. Gary told me that the doors of the team weren't closed on me. He's a hope.”

Speaking about the Cobras side, Gibbs is full of praise for a “closely-knit unit”.

“It's a terrific team. The guys jell really well together. Performing consistently for the Cobras really gives me a huge kick. Hopefully, we will go the distance in the Champions League”

The team, he says, is filled with colourful characters. “There are quite a few guys in the side who have a dry sense of humour. The way they act is pretty unique. Andrew Puttick and Michael Rippon are the funny guys in the side. Wicket-keeper Dane Vilas has a funny bone too.”

Gibbs describes skipper Justin Kemp as a “very calm captain”. “Justin has got the respect of all the boys in the group. He's a tremendous bloke. He never shies away from attacking on the field.”

Even as we wind up the interview, Gibbs shows us with pride a tattoo on his right forearm that reads ‘Rashard'. “That's the name of my son, captain,” he bids adieu with a warm handshake.