Lance-Gibbs

Born September 29, 1934, Lancelot Richard ‘Lance’ Gibbs is one of the greatest spinners to have played the game of cricket. Coming from a region known predominantly for its fast bowlers, Gibbs carved a niche for himself. The man of firsts, Gibbs became the first spinner to cross the barrier of 300 Test wickets. Chinmay Jawalekar looks back at a career full of achievements.

 

1.  Early years

Young Gibbs attended St Ambrose Anglican Primary and Day Commercial Standard High schools. His tryst with cricket began at the age of 14, when he showed up at Demerara Cricket Club (DCC), which was just across the street from his then residence. He started practicing with his friends at the club and learned the basics of the game.

2.  First mentor

Gibbs’ first mentor was the late West Indies cricketer and administrator Berkeley Gaskin. When the two first met, Gaskin was controlling the cricket affairs at DCC. He was the one who really inspired Gibbs to make it big in cricket.

3.  Followed strict regimen

Gibbs’ rigorous training regimen prepared him for a successful international career. He would wake up early in the morning and run, a practice he followed his entire career. He would usually be the first person at practice and the last one to leave.

4.  Started off as a leggie

Gibbs started off as a leg-spinner, but soon found it harder to control. He changed to off-spin on the advice of former England wicketkeeper Arthur McIntyre, who suggested him during a coaching session in Guyana. Gibbs bought his advice and tasted much success with the craft.

5.  First-Class grind

Gibbs made his debut for British Guiana against MCC in 1953-54. He picked up a couple of wickets, including that of Denis Compton, but his side lost by an innings margin. His regional debut came in the same year against Barbados at Kensington Oval; he took six wickets in his second match — a haul that included Cammie Smith, Garry Sobers and Conrad Hunte.

6.  International debut

Gibbs made his debut against Pakistan at Port of Spain in February 1958. He finished the match with 4 wickets, with Waqar Hasan being his first Test victim. The skilful bowler ended his first series with 17 wickets in four matches and also headed the bowling averages (23.05.)

7.  Hat-trick

In the 1961 away series in Australia, Gibbs featured only in the last 3 Tests and picked up 19 wickets at 20.78. Out of them, eight came at SCG, including 3 wickets off 4 balls in the second innings; 5 at Adelaide including a hat-trick; and six at MCG. Wes Hall, Courtney Walsh and Jermaine Lawson are the only other West Indian bowlers to take a Test hat-trick.

8.  Most productive years

Gibbs’ most productive period in Test cricket came in early 1960s. In the 1961–62 home series against India, he picked up 24 wickets at just 20.41 apiece in five Tests. His career best performance came during the same series, during the Bridgetown Test. In that particular Test, Indians were 149 for 2 before collapsing to 187 all out. All 8 wickets were claimed by Gibbs, who got them in 15.3 overs giving away just 6. He ended-up with figures of 8 for 38, one of the best spells of bowling in the history of the game.

Gibbs had another successful series when the West Indies toured England in 1963. He claimed 26 wickets at 21.30, including 5 for 59 and 6 for 98 at Manchester. His dream-run continued as he picked up no less than 18 wickets in the next four series that he played.

9.  Overseas stints

When not on West Indies or Guyana duty, Gibbs represented quite a few overseas sides. He played for Warwickshire from 1967 to 1973 and represented South Australia in Sheffield Shield. His best season overseas came in 1971, when he picked 131 wickets at an average of 18.89 playing for the two sides. Earlier, in 1964, he played for Whitburn in Durham league and helped them win the championship with 126 wickets at a record average of 8.53; it remains a league record.

10.  Wisden Cricketer of the Year

His exceptional performance of 131 wickets at 18.89 earned him the Wisden Cricketer of the Year award in 1972

11.  One-Day International (ODI) debut

At almost 39, Gibbs made his ODI debut against England in 1973 and took the lone wicket of Mike Denness. He added only 2 more caps before his ODI career wound up post 1975 World Cup.

12.  Final series and 300 Test wickets

West Indies’ tour of Australia in 1975–76, was Gibbs’ final one. Playing in all 6 Tests, he took 16 wickets at over 40, his worst against the Aussies. He passed the milestone of 300 Test victims, only the second to do so back then after England’s Fred Trueman, at Perth by dismissing Gary Gilmour. His 309th and final Test wicket was again that of Gilmour. He was also the first spinner to cross 300 wickets in Tests, ending his career with 309 wickets from 79 Tests at 29.09.

13.  Exceptional economy rate

He ended his career with an economy rate of under two runs per over, which is no mean feat.

14.  Poor with the bat

Though phenomenal with the ball, Gibbs was very poor with the bat. He finished his 330-match First-Class matches without a fifty.

15.  Ian Chappell most difficult to bowl at

Gibbs once said that the batsman he found most difficult to dismiss was former Australian skipper Ian Chappell. Gibbs found his footwork and ability to play spin to be excellent.

16.  An artist

Gibbs had long and slender fingers, usually the quintessential sign of an artist. He did become one, an artist of guile, who made the batsmen dance to his fingers’ tunes.

17.  Street named after him

Gibbs has a street in Queenstown, Guyana named after him.  The street, earlier known as ‘Almond Street’, is now known as Lance Gibbs Street.

18.  ICC Hall of Famer

Gibbs is an International Cricket Council (ICC) Hall of Famer; a part of the elite list that has 80 of world’s finest cricketers featured on it.

19.  Cousin Clive

Gibbs is the cousin of another West Indian legend and one of the greatest leaders ever, Clive Lloyd, with whom he played a number of matches for the West Indies.

20.  Post-retirement

After retiring from the game, Gibbs served as the manager of the West Indies cricket team during the tour to England in the year 1991. He later moved to the United States, where he resides with his wife and two kids.

 

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is senior content writer with Criclife. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed at @CricfreakTweets)