June 21, 2014

'The media has every right to call us chokers'

Interview by Richard Sydenham
Herschelle Gibbs on the infamous tag, the 438 match, playing golf with Viv, Tiger and Ronaldo, and his football World Cup predictions

What have you enjoyed most about being out of international cricket?
Not doing warm-ups every other day. The playing side of things was lovely but once players give up international cricket, most are quite happy to not have to do the warm-ups every day.

What have you enjoyed the least about being out of international cricket?
I miss the buzz, the big crowds, the big stage, the big tournaments. You live for these things as an international player for so long, so when it's not there any more, you miss it.

Was there one thing you never got to do, individually, in your 90-Test and 248-ODI career that you would have loved to have done?
I wanted a Test triple-century - even a 250 would have been nice. But frankly I am happy with my two double-centuries (228 v Pakistan and 211 v New Zealand). I got bored at 200!

How many times do you get asked about dropping Steve Waugh in the 1999 World Cup?
Happily not so much anymore, but on Twitter every now and again there will be a smart alec who will come up with that one, but fortunately it's not very often now.

And on that topic - did Waugh really say, "You've just dropped the World Cup?"
Adam Gilchrist told me that Steve Waugh didn't say anything of the sort but he was quite happy to go along with that rumour!

What did you enjoy the most - six sixes in a World Cup, or scoring 175 in a total of 438 to beat Australia?
Definitely the 175 against Australia; when I hit the six sixes, Sir Garfield Sobers had already done it, though not in international cricket, so it was nice to be the first in that sense. But from a purely enjoyment point of view, the 175 was probably on a day when my most complete talent was on display. It is satisfying when I think of the people that were there to see it and the people who saw it on TV. And to win the match also was the icing on top.

Have you still got the bats from those innings?
I have never really been interested in keepsakes. The only thing I wanted was a World Cup winners' medal. I gave the bat from the six sixes to Allan Lamb to auction but never heard any more. The only thing I have kept is my Proteas blazer. I have nothing else left.

Who is the funniest cricketer you have ever met?
I would probably say Neil McKenzie. He is just a fantastic bloke, a great team man, and I'm sure the lads at Hampshire would agree with that. He is exceptionally funny. Very superstitious, but his humour is second to none.

Who was the bowler you used to dread batting against?
I would say Shoaib Akhtar. Even though I enjoyed facing fast bowlers, his action made it really awkward. He wasn't very nice to face at all - was awkward through the air and off the wicket. You couldn't get any quicker than that. He always felt quicker than Brett Lee, though Lee was also as quick as hell, but his action was easier to track.

And who was the bowler who made you think: "I hope this bloke doesn't get taken off just yet?"
Daan van Bunge, obviously!

I really took a liking to Mick Lewis in the 438 game. And because I scored a lot of runs against England I would probably say one of their guys but couldn't possibly single one out!

Who was the most uncomfortable to face in the nets: Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini or Dale Steyn?
I would probably say Allan Donald. I remember one of the first nets I had for South Africa in 1996. He hit me on the leg just below the thigh pad. I went down like a sack of potatoes and couldn't walk for three days. I will never forget that day.

Who is the one player you have shared a cricket field with and felt genuinely privileged to have done so?
Sir Vivian Richards, when playing for Lashings. Fortunately we were on the same team. Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting also, because they made everything look really easy. It's almost like they were taking the mickey.

Who was the one player you shared a dressing room with who you were proud to go into battle with?
Mark Boucher, because it felt like he was always putting his life on the line for the team.

Does it annoy you that the media often labels South Africa as chokers, or do you think it has been justified down the years?
It has been justified. You can't really stop the media from writing what they want and they have every right to call us chokers. In the 1999 World Cup semi-final, we should have won for sure. And in 2003 we underperformed. The fear of failure for a lot of the lads was the biggest issue. And it seems to have continued right up to this day.

Was there a ground that always brought the best out in you?
I would mention two: The Oval and Wanderers, Johannesburg. I always seemed to score runs at The Oval and I played some fantastic innings at Wanderers. I remember my 143 against New Zealand in the 2003 World Cup, when I was in the form of my life. The coach, Eric Simons, said to me beforehand it would be nice if I could get a scratchy 50. That was his way of saying: "Don't go all out blazing from the word go." And I did scratch my way to 50 but went for it after that!

Which country was your favourite tour?
Australia or West Indies. Beach every day in the Caribbean. From a physical point of view, when you play every day and can then go in the sea, you hardly ever get stiff. In Australia they love their cricket. It's hard cricket but you get plenty of respect when you do well.

We know you're a keen golfer, so who would be your ideal four-ball companions?
Tiger Woods, Sir Viv Richards and Cristiano Ronaldo. They have been the best and to be with the best in the world as a sportsman would be the ultimate. I would love to share a few stories with these guys over a beer about their careers.

Which team will win the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and who will they beat in the final?
This might shock a few but I feel the pressure will get to the South Americans. My last four would be Spain, Netherlands, Portugal - because of Ronaldo - and Germany. The winner could be any of those four.

Is retirement from playing cricket close?
The hunger and passion is still there and I don't want to call it quits simply because I didn't have any opportunity anymore. But I still want to play and prove myself because I still love the game. There's still plenty of runs in these old bones yet.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on June 22, 2014, 23:48 GMT

    I guess Gibbs hasn't heard of Lionel Messi.

  • sports_freakz on June 22, 2014, 18:31 GMT

    Its interesting how many sportsman list Australia as their fav place to play cricket. It runs contrary to the image perpetuated by the media. The Aussie crows love to heckle the opponents but are the first to acknowledge/respect good performances. Looks like most top level cricketers like and appreciate that. Good example was Broad in the recent ashes. Before the first game they booed the hell out of but when he got a five for at the end of day one he got a standing ovation. I've seen sportsman from Eng, SA, NZ, Pak, WI etc consistently list Aus as their fav overseas place to play.

  • Android on June 22, 2014, 11:01 GMT

    A top order of Gibbs Kallis Smith was one of the best in the world .Only Ganguly Tendulkar Dravid of India and Gilchrist Hayden Ponting for Aus were comparable to this top order in ODI s.Much of SA s success in limited overs was because of a good top order .That which they lack today .

  • Nadeem on June 22, 2014, 4:56 GMT

    Gibbs innings of 175 vs Ausies was one of the best ODI innings of all time while chasing huge huge score. His 6 sixes and greatest drop catch in history of cricket will keep him famous among cricket lovers.

    Did not Gibbs started the most dominant era in cricket by Aussies for next 10 years in 1999 WC SF. Man Gibbs you owe cricket a lot man.

  • Dummy4 on June 21, 2014, 18:53 GMT

    Gibbs was an exceptionally talented cricketer, but I'd say he underachieved. He retired with a test average of 40 when he was good enough to average 50. He has played some really good knocks against the best in the world and had all the strokes in the book. Gibbs was also an outstanding fielder.

  • Blessing on June 21, 2014, 13:02 GMT

    Fantastic entertaining batsman an AB de Villiers of yesteryears.

  • Dummy4 on June 21, 2014, 12:16 GMT

    SA r the only chokers & r rightly called as such bcz despite having finest ODI side on paper for past 20 years they haven't even reached final of any ICC event...............

    Gibbs 175 was the finest ever ODI inns

  • ali on June 21, 2014, 11:48 GMT

    spain...Lolz..they are already out.

  • Guru on June 21, 2014, 10:05 GMT

    the 175 against Australia is the best the fantastic innings He rarely practice in the nets before a match A great player