Booze binges, raunchy threesomes, a messy divorce, fifties, hundreds, six sixes in an over… Herschelle Gibbs has seen it all. A man who’s known to have lived life king-size, he seems to be at peace with himself now. That’s probably because he’s touching 40.
“I still want to play, man. If this happens, it’s good. If it doesn’t, then so be it. But it will be sad because I know I still have it in me,” he tells dna after his 40-minute stint in the commentary box.
The world-class opener, who played the last of his 248 ODIs in 2010, is very much part of the St Lucia Zouks in the Caribbean Premier League. “I hear the IPL auction is coming up. Fingers crossed,” he adds.
Gibbs is happy to see Quinton de Kock holding up well. “Opening partnerships are special,” says the man who has scored 8,094 runs in the green jersey. “You don’t want to tamper with them. This boy has come of age and is growing in stature. He’s got a great little partnership going with Hashim Amla. I feel sorry for Graeme (Smith) but what can you do!”
Gibbs has forearms the size of a baseball bat. ‘Rashard’, inked in pristine Victorian font, adorns his right arm. There’s a beautiful cross on the left. “Rashard’s my son,” he informs. So, is the little boy into cricket? “Little boy? Are you kidding me? He’s a young man. He’s 17,” the proud father says. “He has scored a few hundreds, off 60, 70 balls, but he loves rugby more than cricket. He plays in the first team. I hope he becomes an international soon. He’s a big lad.”
Gibbs loves his fitness regime. “I don’t do the kind of weights I used to, but I run about four times a day. I want to play, man. I really do. I know I can still field better than most guys.”
So is he a friend to Rashard? “Yes, I am a bit of both, father as well as friend. It’s all about the aspect of respect, you see. But my son’s a little subdued. Thankfully, he’s not like me. He has been brought up very nicely. He is not naughty like me. He’s got his mother’s genes!”
A conversation with the explosive batsman is never complete without a question on that wondrous 175 against Australia in Johannesburg. “It was amazing, eh?” Did the idea of getting to a double hundred cross his mind? “Yes, I briefly thought about it. I was 25 runs away from 200 and there were 19 overs to go. But then I got out. It would have been awesome, but my job was to keep the momentum going. So I told myself that if it has to happen, it will. But I thought Makhaya Ntini’s single to get Bouchy (Mark Boucher) on the strike was the most crucial run scored in that match,” he reminisces.
Gibbs isn’t surprised that each of the three double-centurions in ODI cricket are Indians. In fact, he’s a big fan of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Rohit Sharma. “Not many people know this, but before Sachin got that 200 in Gwalior, I had said to someone that he was going to do it. I saw the pitch on the eve of the match. And then I looked at the boundaries. They were really short. I was proved right, eh!”
Not many know that Gibbs’s father, Herman, is a respected cricket journalist in South Africa. “But I don’t take him seriously because he never played the game,” the son reveals.
So what’s his take on the Indians? “Look, the next crop of batsmen representing India will always be expected to match up to the Tendulkars, Dravids and Laxmans. They were all special because they scored runs all over the world. I quite like Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. But they have a long way to go. I’d really like to see Virat make big hundreds in Tests. I am sure he doesn’t want to be known only as a great white-ball player. And Rohit, well, this is a big series for him.”
A word on Nelson Mandela and Gibbs describes the great man as “unique and special”. “There’s no doubt about the fact that South Africa is what it is because of him. But it’s still a work in progress. We are far from where we would like to be. Things take time, you see. But we can approach the future with the same set of mindset and ideals that Madiba was all about. I am sure we will be fine then.”