Johannesburg: South Africa batsman Herschelle Gibbs admitted on Monday that the team was still struggling to cope with the absence of former captain Hansie Cronje. "His leadership skills made him the icon that he was," said Gibbs, speaking a day after his commanding 143 at the Wanderers had still not been enough to prevent a New Zealand victory.
"The passion with which Cronje played meant he was always keen and always believed we could win from any situation. "Shaun (Pollock, the current South Africa captain) is quite new to being a captain and he's obviously still got a lot to learn," added Gibbs, speaking at the launch of 'Herschelle, A Biography'. "But he was the guy who was vice-captain and the first guy that was obviously in charge after the stuff broke out."
'The stuff' Gibbs was referring to was the corruption scandal Cronje lured him into which saw Gibbs suspended for six months and Cronje, who died in a June plane crash, banned for life. However, in spite of the fact Cronje almost cost him his career, Gibbs added, "We do miss him and Jonty (Rhodes) and Allan (Donald) - two of Cronje's oldest international colleagues - made no mistake of making their feelings known about that. "I think his leadership skills and experience as a captain is something we do miss," said Gibbs after defeats by the West Indies and New Zealand had left South African hopes of qualifying for the tournament's second phase hanging by a thread.
But Gibbs insisted South Africa could still bounce back, despite its poor start and the huge expectations of the home supporters. "It was obviously very disappointing yesterday," said Gibbs of South Africa's nine- wicket defeat by New Zealand. "It's never nice to have your fate lie with other teams," added Gibbs knowing that South African hopes of qualifying depend on West Indies beating Sri Lanka at his home ground of Newlands in Cape Town on February 28.
Gibbs, who was once caught smoking marijuna in Antigua, joked that he was not expecting Newlands groundsman Christo Erasmus to prepare a pitch favouring the West Indies quicks and exploit Sri Lanka's vulnerability against pace bowling. "He hasn't shared a pipe with us before so I don't think he'll leave the grass on," Gibbs joked. On a serious note, he added, "We can only play for a bit of pride. We still believe we're in with a chance. It's never nice to be in the situation we're in but we've only got ourselves to blame.
"It doesn't happen very often that you get a big hundred and lose the game," admitted Gibbs after seeing his hundred topped by one from New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming. "But Fleming's innings was a special one and you've got to give him a bit of credit." And Gibbs said the hype surrounding South Africa had not got to him. "I'm not one to worry too much about the pressure. How you play is up to you. "But I'm sure the guys are maybe feeling a bit down and a bit hot under the collar, a bit pressurised. But we can only wait and hope."