South Africa batting icon Gibbs believes every middle-order batter in the Proteas squad is capable of finishing games

Cricket icon Herschelle Gibbs discusses the potential of South Africa's middle-order and spinners for the ICC T20 World Cup, emphasizing flexibility in strategy. Read his insights on the Proteas' prospects and key players.

Wriddhaayan Bhattacharyya
W. Bhattacharyy

Last Updated: 2024-05-28

Louis Hobbs

7 minutes read

Herschelle Gibbs

South Africa batting icon Gibbs believes every middle-order batter in the Proteas squad — Markram, Klaasen, Miller and Stubbs — are capable of finishing games, and backed spinners Maharaj and Shamsi to deliver the goods in the West Indies.

Herschelle Gibbs knows the Caribbean islands better than many batters. The South African legend was the first to smash six sixes in an over in international cricket against the Netherlands at Basseterre in the ODI World Cup 2007 fixture before the shorter format gained steam.

Gibbs had all the ingredients of a T20 cricketer. His best ODI knock reads 175 off 111 against Australia while chasing 435. The right-hander played only 23 T20I matches until his retirement in 2010, but his tenure covered the first three editions of the T20 World Cup in 2007, 2009, and 2010.

Ahead of the 2024 edition of the ICC showpiece that starts June 2 in the United States and the West Indies, the former Proteas batter assessed the current squad led by Aiden Markram.

Image Credits: Mager Repair

Image Credits: Mager Repair

Gibbs' advice to Markram: Be flexible with plans

Gibbs feels South Africa can shine in the tournament if they are flexible with their plans. "A lot has been said about the firepower in the middle order. I would like to see them being proactive in decision-making. We have Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller and Tristan Stubbs. I have upset too many journalists when I have said that all these batters can bat at any position. One of the franchises used Miller as the finisher. I feel all of them have the same sort of firepower.

"If the Proteas are two down, I would not go with a set batting order. You could use either one of the three as a finisher. Miller is not the only one. The other guys have the hitting ability, and it doesn't matter where they bat. It depends on the game situation," Gibbs told on Friday.

Gibbs expects Markram to be sharp with his bowling changes. He feels there should not be set bowlers for powerplay and death overs. "You can't be predictable as to how you use your bowlers. The guys will have to bowl at any time of the innings. Markram's captaincy will be the key in such situations," added Gibbs, who had scored an unbeaten 90 off 55 balls in the inaugural T20 World Cup match against West Indies in 2007.

Best prepared teams

The 50-year-old feels the South African players currently in the West Indies for the T20I series will be best prepared, besides the Caribbeans, who will operate in their backyard in the mega event.

He backed newcomer Ryan Rickleton, who earned a T20I call-up after scoring 530 runs at a strike rate reading 173.77 in the CSA T20 League. "We have Rickleton, Quinton de Kock, and Reeza Hendricks as openers. It is a good chance for Rickelton to throw his hat in the ring to be in the starting XI with a good series in the West Indies. Those two teams will have good preparations for the World Cup, irrespective of how the guys performed in the IPL, as they are already in the West Indies. The wickets in the IPL were unbelievable. It won't be as good in the West Indies as I expect a bit of a turn. The wickets are a lot slower, and the grounds are small," said Gibbs, who represented Deccan Chargers and Mumbai Indians in the IPL from 2008 to 2012.

Wickets in the World Cup

Gibbs expects the balls to fly in the States. The South African feels all teams have players with tremendous ball-striking ability. "The World Cup will be won or lost depending on how the batters play spin in the West Indies. We have seen that everyone plays pace well. The wickets in the USA could be skiddy with bounce as the drop-in pitch came from Australia. The grounds are even smaller than the ones in the IPL. I expect high-scoring games in America," he added.

Gibbs trusts slow left-arm orthodox bowler Keshav Maharaj to dictate terms with the ball. "Tabraiz Shamsi [left-arm wrist spinner] and Maharaj are seasoned campaigners. Maharaj has been steady without being overly successful. He played two games in the IPL too. He brings in calmness. There was a bit of purchase for him in the ODI World Cup semifinal in 2023.

"Bjorn Fortuin [slow left-arm orthodox spinner] is probably dying to get a chance, although he is not much of a turner. They are as dangerous as any other spinning option in the World Cup," said Gibbs, the fifth-highest run-scorer from South Africa with 14,461 runs across formats.

Cricket South Africa has come under scanner in some quarters for picking only Kagiso Rabada among the black Africans. The current target requires the squad to field six players of colour in an XI, where two must be black Africans. "It is a tough one, but I think head coach Rob Walter wanted in-form players, which is first and foremost. If the guys haven't performed in a while, there is no point chasing them, irrespective of their colour. He wanted a winning team, and every coach would like that," reasoned Gibbs.

South Africa will start their campaign against Sri Lanka at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York on June 3.

Wriddhaayan Bhattacharyya is a cricket journalist based in India who takes a keen interest in stories that unfold on and off the field. His expertise lies in news writing, features and profiles, interviews, stats, and numbers-driven stories. He has also worked as a podcaster and talk show host on cricket-related shows on YouTube and Spotify.