Herschelle Gibbs was one of the precociously talented batsman to emerge from South Africa but gradually slipped into oblivion © Getty Images


By David Green


Herschelle Gibbs was reputedly a good enough footballer as a boy to have a trial with Manchester United before pursuing a career in cricket.


Let’s face it, when it comes to brains, Gibbs is more Ashley Cole than Michael Atherton, so perhaps should have stuck to kicking rather than hitting a ball for a living. He has certainly got into a few scrapes throughout a gaffe ridden career. Getting sucked in by Hansie Cronje was probably his worst move, but several episodes of drunkenness, indiscipline and his no-holds barred autobiography also come to mind.


But when it comes to the World Cup, Gibbs will forever be remembered for one hubristic error. South Africa should have won the 1999 World Cup. They were probably the best team in it and could and should have had the immense pleasure of knocking Australia out not once but twice (if indeed that is possible). If Gibbs had caught Steve Waugh in the Super Six match at Headingley, then the Australians would have been eliminated.


Up to that point, Gibbs had had a good day. A scintillating century in South Africa’s score of 271 seemed to have put the game in his side’s favour. And when Australia slipped to 48 for three, Gibbs could have been forgiven for thinking about the man of the match champagne.


Then came his moment: Steve Waugh, on 56, offered Gibbs a simple catch at midwicket. If he had misjudged it and spilled the chance, fair enough – these things happen. But in a typically, over-arrogant moment, Gibbs started celebrating before he had the ball fully under control. What a plank! That is unforgiveable.


As Waugh, who went on to make an unbeaten 120, supposedly opined, Gibbs had indeed dropped the World Cup.


If Gibbs had caught the ball before celebrating like a namby-pamby footballer, South Africa would have won the match and probably the tournament – and then the chokers tag would never have been hung around their necks.


If that doesn’t make Gibbs a zero, we don’t know what does.


(David Green is the brain behind the irreverent The Reverse Sweep blog and also writes for a number of cricket publications and sites such as World Cricket Watch. You can follow him on Twitter also @TheReverseSweep. David was a decent schoolboy and club cricketer (and scored his maiden 100 the same week that Sachin Tendulkar scored his first Test ton) but not good enough to fulfil his childhood dream of emulating Douglas Jardine by winning the Ashes in Australia and annoying the locals into the bargain. He now lives with his wife and two young children in the South of France and will one day write the definitive biography of Hedley Verity)