Batsman ready to take on Kiwis
Herschelle Gibbs can finally concentrate on his cricket when South Africa get their ICC Champions Trophy campaign underway against New Zealand on Monday.
The opening batsman’s preparations for the tournament have been severely disrupted after he was questioned by Indian police over the match-fixing scandal which engulfed the game six years ago.
Gibbs has not played in India since being named as part of that probe, but will be hoping to let his cricket do the talking against the New Zealanders in the opening game of Group B in Mumbai.
The issue with Gibbs has dominated South Africa’s build up to the tournament, but skipper Graeme Smith is keen to put the issue to one side and let his team concentrate on their cricket.
He said: “The Gibbs probe is over and he and the rest of us can finally get back to doing what we do best, that is play cricket.”
Gibbs has been dropped down the order recently, but coach Mickey Arthur is considering restoring him to the top of the order for the tournament.
Arthur said: “In this tournament the emphasis will be on scoring runs while the ball is still hard and for that reason it is not out of the question that Herschelle could return as opening batsman.”
The Proteas can welcome back Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis from injury, after both missed this summer’s Test series in Sri Lanka.
New Zealand are returning to international cricket after a near seven-month break since their one-day series with West Indies, and coach John Bracewell is desperate for his side to give it their all from the very first ball.
But they have been dealt a blow on the eve of the tournament after Shane Bond, who was due to return to international cricket after a lengthy lay-off with a back problem, was ruled out after suffering stiffness following Friday’s warm-up clash with Baroda.
However, Bracewell will still expect his side to be at their best, saying: “You are either in to win or if you are not then you go home. It's as simple as that really. We know what the rules are and will play to them.”
While many are using this tournament as the start of preparations for next year’s World Cup, Bracewell insists his only focus is on success in the Champions Trophy.
He added: “We are keeping this one aside from that particular tournament. We have got a lot of one-day cricket this season leading into the World Cup.
"We will worry about the World Cup when we start to build towards it, which will be after this tournament.
"We have looked at this as a stand-alone tournament."
Although Bond is out, the Black Caps hope to be able to call on Daniel Vettori and Jacob Oram, despite the pair being rested for their opening warm-up match last week.
Scott Styris is a cause for concern with a hamstring problem, however.