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Last Updated: Monday, 9 October 2006, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
India awaits Gibbs
By Neil Manthorp

Six years of self-imposed banishment from India will come to an end when Herschelle Gibbs arrives for the ICC Champions Trophy this week.

Herschelle Gibbs and Henry Williams were both banned from the game for six months
Gibbs and paceman Henry Williams were banned for six months in 2000

When he does finally arrive, the batsman has been briefed to expect the size of media circus one might expect for a "Madonna-meets-Mandela" event.

It will be a triumph for the Indian police - no amount of money could better spread the message that nobody is above the law.

Having admitted his involvement in the Hansie Cronje-led match-fixing scandal of 2000, Gibbs was banned from all cricket for six months.

He had been involved in a criminal act in a foreign country and the police in that country wished to talk to him.

Perfectly reasonable, you might think.

Yet Gibbs refused to return to India, either as a South Africa player or as a private citizen wishing to clear his name.

For a long time there was only one reasonable conclusion to be reached - that he was guilty of more than he had confessed to at the civil King Commission of Inquiry into match-fixing in Cape Town in June 2000.

But the reality is there were was a very different reason for his "stay-at-home" approach: a stubbornness so profound that any donkey, ass or mule in the world would have been proud of it.

And none of that came from Gibbs himself.

The South Africans waited for the Indians to back down... and common sense never kicked in

His legal advisors, both private and those from the Cricket South Africa, initially suggested he had answered for his actions at the King Commission and the matter was closed.

To the man heading the investigation in Delhi, Dr KK Paul, this attitude was seen as something between insulting and hilarious.

The King Commission was a civil matter and had nothing to do with India or its police force.

Gibbs' people then suggested the questions could be put in writing and their client could answer them from the comfort of Cape Town.

They also wanted a guarantee of immunity from prosecution and said their man could be questioned "on neutral territory" - Dubai, for example.

Naturally, Dr Paul was unimpressed. Not only was there no compelling reason to afford Gibbs special treatment, it would have been, at best, unethical to do so.

So a game of deadlock ensued and for six years the South Africans waited for the Indians to back down which, in terms of a contest, was akin to them tackling Tiger Woods over 18 holes - with a set of children's clubs.

Herschelle Gibbs
Gibbs will hope his batting can do most of the talking in India

There had been a great deal of nervous tension back in 2000 when Gibbs and Nicky Boje were mentioned by Cronje in the taped conversations with match-fixers and bookmakers.

None of the players knew what Cronje may have said about them and, given that much of what he said appeared to be fictitious, they were nervous of what they may have been inadvertently implicated in.

But as the dust settled, common sense never kicked in.

It made not the slightest difference to Gibbs' and Boje's advisors that not a single cricketer of any nationality, including those convicted and subsequently banned for match-fixing, had spent a single minute in police custody.

Not even former India and Pakistan captains Mohammad Azharuddin and Salim Malik.

Characteristically, the Indian police reacted not with justifiable outrage at this obvious disrespect, but with calm disinterest.

Quietly they smiled when they read comments emanating from South Africa about cricketers being forced "to rot in Indian jails".

Sadly, many South Africans (from all backgrounds) automatically assumed that anybody required for questioning in India, let alone charged with a crime, ran the risk of being thrown into the Black Hole of Calcutta and never seen again.

Gibbs cannot be trusted to understand - let alone answer - the questions that may be put to him

It was embarrassing.

Now, finally, Gibbs and his advisors have seen the joke has been on them all along.

Dr Paul has said the player will be questioned in India and has always been amenable to conducting the interview at a "cricket friendly" time.

But then, three weeks ago, Gibbs made an error of judgement worthy of a Dean Jones commentary stint by calling the Indian police "hard arses" in a magazine interview.

It may result in him receiving an invite to police headquarters during the lunch break of the first game.

Fortunately, South African Cricketers Association (SACA) chief executive Tony Irish knocked heads together (mostly Gibbs') and got the wheels back on track.

Perhaps he should have pursued such a course a couple of years ago.

Gibbs will not travel with the rest of the team because the 32-year-old cannot be trusted to understand - let alone answer - the questions that may be put to him, however much of a formality they are likely to be.

His personal lawyer has a long-standing engagement and cannot travel to India until four days before South Africa's first match.

So, while his team-mates prepare in India, Gibbs will play a couple of domestic games for the Cape Cobras in very different conditions.

When the cameras have finally recorded his arrival and he has answered the questions, he will probably be offered an excellent cup of tea and wonder why the hell he didn't get it all over and done with five years ago.

Neil Manthorp has been a cricket commentator on South African radio and the BBC World Service, as well as writing extensively on the Proteas since their re-admission into international cricket in 1991

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04 May 06 |  Cricket
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31 Oct 05 |  Cricket
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14 Sep 05 |  South Africa
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22 Nov 04 |  South Africa
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