Herschelle Gibbs © Getty Images
Herschelle Gibbs © Getty Images

On May 11, 2011, Herschelle Gibbs was accused of smoking marijuana during post-match celebrations at St John’s. Abhishek Mukherjee revisits an extension of a horror run for the man in what was the worst twelve months of his life.

It had all started that one night.

On April 17, 2000, Herschelle Gibbs had admitted that he had stayed up till 3 AM, partying at the West End Jazz Club in Cape Town with ‘two unidentified friends’ on the night before a crucial ODI against Australia. When asked for a reason, he replied, “I don’t have anything to say. I was at the nightclub and it has nothing to do with anyone else.”

On that occasion he had got away with a three-ODI ban and an R5,000 fine.

Within months, Gibbs was in hot water again when he broke into tears and confessed to the King’s Commission that he had taken $15,000 from Hansie Cronje for the third ODI against India to score ‘less than 20’ (though he forgot the arrangement completely and scored a 53-ball 74, leaving Cronje rather bemused).

This time he faced a six-month ban, which seemed a rather lenient punishment for such a grave offence.

Then, just as the fans thought that Gibbs’s dark days were over, the opening batsman was found smoking marijuana during post-match celebrations at the Jolly Beach resort in St John’s on May 11, 2001. Accompanying him were physiotherapist Craig Smith (the longest-serving member of the side — operating since South Africa’s readmission in 1991) and his teammates Roger Telemachus, Paul Adams, Justin Kemp, and Andre Nel.

All six received R10,000 fines, but got away without being suspended, which was probably yet another indulgent decision dished out by the Board.

Subsequent controversies

Controversy would continue to haunt Gibbs throughout the rest of his career. Six years later he would be suspended for a Test, an ODI, and a T20I by Chris Broad for making racist remarks in a Test against Pakistan (he appealed against the ban, but it was turned down by Richie Benaud, ICC’s Code of Conduct Commissioner).

The very next year he spent a night in prison for drunken driving, and was later dropped from the national side for a series against Bangladesh when he broke a team curfew. Mickey Arthur commented that “Herschelle’s behaviour is unacceptable in the context of team discipline”. He was also sent on an alcohol rehabilitation programme by the South African Cricket Board.

Even as recently as in 2012, after scoring a 46-ball 71 to guide Perth Scorchers to BBL final, Gibbs was not allowed entry into a bar called Ginger where his teammates celebrated the victory. Gibbs was refused entry because of his visible tattoos, which was against the rules of the nightclub.

Gibbs, who finally ended his career with 6,167 runs in Tests and 8,094 more in ODIs, and had claimed rather proudly that he had never read a book (though he wrote one of the most colourful autobiographies in the sport), remained one of the most controversial characters in South African cricket. Sadly, he never optimised his unquestionable talent.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ovshake and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)