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  Sunday, 4 November, 2001, 18:19 GMT
Golden Boy reaches maturity
Herschelle Gibbs on tour in the West Indies
Gibbs can do no wrong in the eyes of fans and selectors
BBC Sport Online profiles South African opener Herschelle Gibbs.

It said it all when, as his six-month ban from international cricket came to an end, Herschelle Gibbs was named immediately to make a return to the South African side in the 2001 New Year Test against Sri Lanka.

Even though he had admitted to having taken money from then captain Hansie Cronje to under-perform in a one-day international in India the previous April (he said he forgot while he was at the crease).

Even though he was then given a suspended three-match ban for breaking curfew on the night before a match against Australia.

Even though he had a Test batting average of 32.29 and a suspect temperament, there was little doubt that South Africa's golden boy would be allowed straight back into the fold.

The bad behaviour didn't stop there, either, as Gibbs was discovered to have been one of a group of players caught smoking marijuana while on tour in the West Indies.

Blind eye

But Gibbs can do no wrong in the eyes of the South African selectors.

As what the South African authorities call a "player of colour", the selectors have one reason to call on him before others.

In their view he has always been first choice anyway, and this year he is going about proving them right.

Gibbs fields in training
Gibbs' fielding is testament to his athletic ability
What was never in doubt is that he has an abundance of natural talent, as shown by his athletic fielding.

But even that was blighted by his mental approach when his drop off Steve Waugh at Headingley allowed South Africa to progress to that infamous 1999 World Cup semi-final.

A schoolboy rugby player, there are those that say he could be wearing the Springbok number 10 jersey rather than the double-zero that he sports in one-day cricket.

Time out

Prior to that six-month ban, though, he had only on occasion been able to harness his obvious skill with the temperament to make a big score.

He had a purple patch of form with two centuries in New Zealand in 1998/99, the best an innings of 211 not out at Christchurch.

But all too often he got out to rash shots early in his innings.

Kapil Dev, Morne du Plessis, Viv Richards
Former rugby captain Morne du Plessis (centre) has helped out
That all changed with his time on the sidelines.

Although banned from the international game, he was allowed to turn out for Western Province, the Newlands side for whom he made his first class debut at the age of 16.

The time at home obviously helped him technically as well as mentally.

The national authorities have helped out too.

Since that smoking incident he has been required to spend six hours a week with former Springbok rugby captain Morne Du Plessis in a "life-skills training program".

"It is a fresh start and hopefully a much more professional and better one," he said on his return to the big time in January.

"I've had a lot to think about in the last seven or eight months. I've bided my time but it seems to have taken forever."

Gibbs selected his new double-zero jersey in a desire to make a clean start and, since then, he has certainly performed.

Fine form

In Test cricket, he has averaged 52.76 with the bat in 2001, at home to Sri Lanka, in that toughest of testing grounds the West Indies and against lowly Zimbabwe.

A Test century in Harare was followed by the fastest one-day century in South African history - just 84 balls - in a destruction of their neighbours.

And that form continued on Sunday as he and opening partner Gary Kirsten pillaged India's attack.

South African fans were finally able to witness a Gibbs century on home soil.

Of course, he has enjoyed patches of good form before, but mostly he has disappointed even those most loyal to his cause.

This time around, though, it could be a different matter.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Marcus Prior
"Gibbs was rampant throughout"
India on tour in South Africa megapuff

Unoffical Test

Denness affair

Previous Tests

Who's who

One-day series

Tour fixtures

Past encounters

AUDIO/VIDEO
Links to more India in South Africa stories are at the foot of the page.


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