Herschelle Gibbs speaks to Gulf News during a visit to the UAE in 2018. Image Credit: T10 League

Dubai: Herschelle Gibbs, the former dashing South African opener, put his hand up in the country’s battle against COVID-19 when he decided to auction his most valuable possession from his cricketing career to raise funds for families affected by the pandemic. He is giving away the bat on auction with which he hit his career-best One Day International knock of 175 in South Africa’s historic chase on March 12, 2006, against Australia at the Wanderers ground in Johannesburg.

No cricketlover can ever forget this match as even today, it remains as the highest total chased by any team batting in an ODI and the world witnessed a score of 434 for four in 50 overs being chased successfully. Gibbs’s knock came off 111 balls, with 21 boundaries and seven sixes.

When I visited this ground in 2017 on an invitation from Cricket South Africa for the launch of their T20 Global League, I was fortunate to see the scoreboard of this match affixed on the walls of the pavilion. Though Australia’s Ricky Ponting hit 164 runs in that match, it was Gibbs who was the topscorer, which is still a world record.

As Gibbs’ international career came to an end by 2010, the chances of meeting this batsman who could thrash any bowling and talking to him became remote. However in 2018, he visited the UAE as the coach of the Rajputs team for the second edition of the T10 League and I approached Vijay Vyas, co-owner of the Rajputs team, for an interview with Gibbs.

When asked as to how he could hit the ball so comfortably and that for a long period of time, he said: “It is all technical and not just trying to hit the ball as high as you can. Frankly, you don’t have to hit the ball very hard. The timing of the stroke is what makes it look like some batsmen are doing an easy job.”

This prompted me to ask him more about his craft. Gibbs revealed that it was the challenge of playing the best bowlers in the world that helped him score runs. “Wasim Akram was the best and I felt privileged to play against bowlers like Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. They all had variety and Shoaib Akhtar was the quickest that I’ve faced. It was lovely to get runs against those kinds of bowlers as they were the best in the business,” said the legend who had scored 8094 runs in One Day matches with 21 centuries and 37 half-centuries and was equally effective in Test cricket with 6167 runs including 14 centuries and 26 fifties.

Gibbs never hid his emotions and his autobiography is aptly titled “To the Point - The No Holds Barred autobiography”. He confessed all the wrong things he had done in his life through this book, but it also portrayed the warm and generous side of this genius who wears his heart on his sleeves.

Gibbs’ generous act of auctioning the bat is nothing but an extension of his real self.