Travelling for T20 keeps Gibbs happy
There can be no happier cricketer in the world than Herschelle Gibbs. The former South Africa batsman is not bothered by much - the use of the word 'former' being an exception - and with less than 140 days to go for his 39th birthday, still has the mischief and manner of a 12-year-old.
Being carefree, a little controversial and always cheerful is what Gibbs is known for and not even being dropped from his CSA contract on release of his autobiography has changed that. Irrespective of the amount of prodding and poking by the media when looking for a reaction, Gibbs gives his answers with a smile.
Like when he was asked what if feels like to be an Australian, since he will turn out for the Perth Scorchers in the Champions League this year … "It doesn't feel like anything," he said, grinning. "As long as I am playing I am happy, I just want to play. I'm not worried about who I am playing for. I didn't worry about anything when I played for South Africa anyway. It doesn't make a difference which team I am playing for."
Simple as that. Everyone suspected it and now Gibbs confirmed it: he seldom stresses about anything. It may be exactly that quality that has helped him launch a freelance career playing in 20-overs leagues around the world. Happy to pack-up and go from location to location, play in a different team with different colleagues under a different coach - if someone can adjust to the constant shifting, that someone is Gibbs.
Most recently, he has had stints at the Big Bash League, the Bangladesh Premier League and the Friends Life t20. He also played for two IPL franchises, one New Zealand team and in the South African 20-overs competition. With only West Indies, Sri Lanka (whose SLPL he turned down) and Zimbabwe being unchartered territories, Gibbs is one of the people best placed to assess the standards across leagues.
His Australian came through when he commented. "The Big Bash is probably the best," to the delight of Marcus North, the Perth captain who had stayed behind to listen to Gibbs' antics (he could not have been there to stop them because nothing can).
"The contest between bat and ball is pretty good. Bowlers are not just targets, like they are in the IPL. Also in the IPL, the boundaries are about fifty (metres) but in the Big Bash they are bigger. And the wickets are fantastic, so there is something for everyone. Once you get in there, you can go haywire."
That seems to be what Gibbs did. He was Perth's second-highest run-scorer, with 302 runs at an average of 43.14 that included four half-centuries. He finished the season with seven fewer runs than Mitchell Marsh, the chart-topper for Perth, but played two fewer matches than him.
And the worst league? Gibbs was unusually careful not to launch scathing criticism but said the BPL is one he may not be in a hurry to return to. "Bangladesh has been interesting. It was their first time, so there were a few issues you could not avoid but logistically it was a failure."
From the outside, it all seems quite glamorous but Gibbs explained that the life of a free agent comes with its own stresses. "The main thing is that you have to do well in order to get invited again. It's very much a pressure-driven environment."
Even though he works from assignment to assignment, Gibbs said he would not consider taking up a contract and finishing his career quietly in whites. He last played a first-class match in 2009 for Glamorgan against Northamptonshire and says the format has no appeal to him anymore. Unlike Chris Gayle, who once said he "wouldn't be so sad" if Test cricket was erased from the future, Gibbs did not rubbish the format but sees it as the most important building block to a successful stint in the sport.
"I did my time in the field there," he said. "I would have liked to get 250 or 300 hundreds in first-class cricket. [But] it just wasn't for me anymore. When I played that last game, I stood there and knew it wasn't for me."
Just like his international career, Gibbs has moved on from there. Now, he prefers to continue playing for as long as he remains in demand, and his body will let him, in format he "just loves".
It's hard not to believe there is nothing about his life Gibbs is not content with, until you see what is behind the big smile, dancing eyes and booming voice: one massive regret. Gibbs is still haunted by knowing that he will probably never be the owner of a World Cup medal, the only thing he thinks is missing from his cricketing career.
"Nothing could be as big as winning a World Cup," he said. "We [Deccan Chargers] won the IPL in 2009, which was quite nice but I can't imagine what it must be like to win a World Cup. Nothing can be as good as playing international cricket, not even this."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent