Gibbs gets To the Point

Herschelle Gibbs (File)
Herschelle Gibbs (File)
Cape Town - Sport24 presents an edited extract from To the Point, the autobiography of Herschelle Gibbs, in which he gives a blow-by-blow of the Proteas’ dope-smoking scandal in the Caribbean in 2001 – including his allegation that team-mate Daryll Cullinan blew the whistle.

The Proteas were to tour the West Indies for the first time in 2001. Although the Proteas had played a few ODIs and one Test in the West Indies in 1992, this was the first full-blown South African cricket tour to the islands. You could say that it was a fairly big deal.

Shaun Pollock was the Proteas captain, and when we got to Antigua for the fourth Test, we were leading the series 1-0, with two to play. By the fourth day of the Test, it was already clear that we were going to win the match and, therefore, the series. We just needed a few wickets on the last day, and that would be it – we would have beaten the West Indies in their own backyard.

So, sitting in the changing room at the end of that fourth day, enjoying a few beers with the guys, I suggested that perhaps it might be fun – not to mention highly appropriate – for us to celebrate the sheer momentousness of the occasion by partaking of the local herb.

Neil McKenzie was like, ‘Great idea! Great idea! Let’s do it.’ Obviously we had had a few toots by then, and pretty much all the guys were keen to smoke some of Antigua’s finest, A-grade marijuana.

As it happened, our liaison officer – the local man who looked after us – was nicknamed ‘Smokey’. Seriously. We never knew him by any other name. Great guy too. Anyway, so Roger Telemachus, the Proteas bowler and a good mate of mine, was really keen on the idea. I remember him saying, ‘I’m going to smoke the fattest spliff if we win tomorrow.’

So anyway, we had a few more drinks and the idea took root and grew some lovely green leaves. Later, on the bus on the way back to the hotel, I had a quiet word with old Smokey: ‘Smokey, what are the chances of organising us some weed? We’re probably going to win tomorrow and the boys want to partake.’ All he said was, ‘Cool.’

Smokey was very cool.

The next day, as we walked into the changing room for the final day’s play and the formalities of victory, true to his promise, I saw Smokey standing there with a big plastic bag … and it was just bulging with weed. A whole bunch of loose heads and five already-rolled, fat joints. I had the biggest grin on my face, but I also didn’t want the coach or any of the support staff – or Polly – to see it, so I quickly put it in my bag.

So now I’m sitting through the whole of the last day with The Shit in my bag. We end up winning the Test and now have a 2-0 lead with only one more Test to play. In other words, we have the series (and The Shit) in the bag. (We ended up losing the final Test, but I’m pretty sure our little game of Pass the Reefer did not influence the outcome of the match.) Anyway, so there was one very happy vibe in the changing room after our win. It was basically carnage, actually. The selectors were celebrating, our good friends Jack Daniel and Charles Glass were present … ja, the guys were getting properly hammered.

I was so keen to get goofed that I wanted to light up right there and then, but Roger said, ‘Whoa! No man, are you nuts, bru? We can’t smoke it in the changing room in front of the selectors! We’ll take it back to the hotel.’

Everyone was still in tremendous spirits on the bus back to the hotel, and now we wanted to have a bit of a smoke. A few of the guys who had been really keen the day before – like McKenzie and a couple of others – decided that they weren’t going to go through with it after all. Fair enough. The rest of us were committed, though. There was me, Roger, Paul Adams, André Nel, Justin Kemp and our physio, Craig Smith.

I’ve got The Shit, we’re all very keen on a toke or three, and all we need now is a venue. Craig Smith always had his own private room, where he could treat the players. Perfect. Besides, we were all firm believers in alternative medicine. By now it was probably around six or seven in the evening, and by the time we eventually got to the treatment room, I was already flying, thanks to some bourbon.

Time to lock the doors and light up. I decided to have one of the joints all on my own, but some of the ous were too scared to inhale the stuff properly. Roger and I, however, decided to give it a proper crack. Pretty soon, we were finished. I mean, it was the first – and would be the only – time I ever smoked the stuff. So ja, I was blitzed. I just made it back to my hotel room, where my girlfriend at the time was waiting.

The team was supposed to meet back at the bar, but I was too high … I never made it out of my room. I remember knocking and knocking on our hotel room door and just laughing myself stupid. She looked at me weirdly and innocently asked, ‘Why are you laughing so much? What? Have you been smoking something?’ She always did have a great sense of humour.

It had been great fun nonetheless, and, even though we got bust, I wouldn’t have swapped the thrill of celebrating a win over the Windies in Antigua by smoking a joint for anything. But, ja, we did get bust. And this is how it happened …

The whole story came out a few days later when, during a two-day game in Montego Bay, Daryll Cullinan and Roger Telemachus had this huge altercation. The two of them had never really seen eye to eye, and neither of them ever backed down for anybody … especially Roger. That guy did not take a step back, ever.

I was doing twelfth-man duties during the Montego Bay game – never a favourite way to spend my time.

So we’re all sitting in the changing room during one of the breaks – I don’t recall whether it was the lunch or tea break – and Roger breaks wind. At which Daryll completely loses his marbles. I mean, Roger just farted. Sure, it might have been loud and lengthy, and not at all pleasant on the nose, but all of us were laughing. Except Daryll. Who knows why? Daryll is Daryll. I’ve never understood or liked the guy. I’m a pretty easy-going individual and I got along with most of my former Proteas teammates, but Daryll wasn’t one of them.

Daryll had been my very first roommate on my maiden tour with the Proteas in 1996 for the Kenyan Cricket Association’s Centenary tournament in Nairobi, which would be my very first games for the team. So I’m sharing a room with Daryll, and his wife Virginia – they’re now divorced – phones him and he isn’t in the room. So I say, ‘Virginia, I’ll give Daryll the message. I’m sure he’ll get back to you soon.’

Anyway, Daryll comes back to the room and I give him the message. After an hour or so, I asked him if he’s remembered to phone his wife. All he said was, ‘Fuck off. It’s got nothing to do with you.’

It just blew me right out of the water – I mean, I was basically just covering his back, you know? And since that day I’ve never liked him.

He has my respect as a cricketer, but that’s where it ends. It’s obviously tricky when you are teammates. You just stay out of each other’s way and never really engage too much. The shit thing, though, is when you have to bat with the guy! I mean, you’re out there in the middle and the oke hits a bladdy four and you don’t really like him … now you have to say ‘good shot’, and you know – and he knows – that you don’t really mean it.

Personality clashes are bound to happen, I suppose. Everybody can’t always get on with everyone else.

Anyway, back to the fart in Montego Bay. Daryll and Roger were having a proper go at each other – we’re talking a nose-to-nose altercation here. (Ironic, now that I think about it, given that Roger was the source of the smell to which Daryll was taking such great exception.) Roger ended up shoving Daryll, and the floor was covered in really slippery tiles, so Daryll went flying into some chairs. Not good. By now he was apoplectic with rage and stormed out of the changing room, shouting, ‘That’s it! Fuck this! I’m not going back on the field.’ And he went straight to Goolam.

Goolam Rajah was, and still is, the Proteas’ much-respected team manager. So Daryll stormed back to the hotel, which meant I had to go and field. ‘Cool,’ I thought. ‘This is better than being twelfth man.’

What wasn’t cool, though, was what Daryll apparently did next. We subsequently heard that he had told Goolam that he wanted to pack his bags, as he was tired of this team … and, by the way, they were smoking marijuana in the physio’s room a few nights ago.

Ja …

So, we got back to the hotel after the day’s play, and The Shit had hit the fan. The team was asked to assemble in the team room, where we were told that management had been notified of a certain incident that had taken place in the physio’s room, and would the guilty parties please stand up. Daryll had sold us out. Most of the guys knew we’d had a couple of spliffs – I don’t know if Polly knew, as he was the captain, but the rest all knew.

But Daryll was the one who had squealed because he had had an altercation with Roger. He might only have wanted to get even with Roger, but the rest of us got nailed too. I was still on a suspended sentence from the match-fixing drama at the time, so I got fined R10 000. The other guys were fined five grand or thereabouts. All in all, one of the more expensive farts Roger had ever let rip.

Still, I look back on the whole pungent episode rather fondly. You know, ‘when in Rome’ … It was the only time I ever smoked weed; I’ve never needed to do it again. I had just thought, well, it’s a one-off thing. We’ve won the series, so we might as well celebrate in true Caribbean style.

I don’t have any regrets. But we were obviously all pissed off with Daryll, because if it hadn’t been for him, nothing would have come of it. But, ja, it was quite funny. The locals certainly found it bladdy amusing, as everyone smokes the stuff there, even though it’s illegal.

While we’re on the subject, and in case you’re wondering, you should know that while alcohol is available all over the show, recreational drugs are not part of the cricket scene at all – especially now. Back then there weren’t so many drug tests, but these days you probably pee into a test tube more often than you do into the toilet bowl. The rules are also a lot stricter on what we can and cannot use.

The guys tend to get the doctor’s clearance first before they take or use anything. It’s just not worth it to take any chances. Obviously many of us love a few drinks, and quite a few of us smoke the odd cigarette, but I certainly don’t know of anyone who does drugs. If you test positive for illegal drug use, you are banned for life. No one is stupid enough to take that risk.

*Extracted from To the Point by Herschelle Gibbs, with Steve Smith (Zebra Press). Available at all leading bookstores countrywide.

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