Lance Gibbs

Full name: Lancelot Richard Gibbs
Born: 29 Sep 1934, Queenstown, Georgetown, Demerara, Guyana
Batting: Right-hand batsman
Bowling: Right-arm off-break
Relations: Cousin: CH Lloyd
Teams: Demerara (FC: 1972); Guyana (FC: 1954-1975); West Indies (Test: 1958-1976); West Indies (ODI: 1973-1975);  Warwickshire (FC: 1967-1973); Warwickshire (ListA: 1968-1973); South Australia (FC: 1969/70);   South Australia ListA: 1969); All teams
Club: Demerara Cricket Club, Georgetown
School: St. Ambrose Anglican Primary; Day Commercial Standard High School
Indian Cricket Cricketer of the Year: 1967
Warwickshire cap: 1968
Professional Cricketers' Association Player of the Year: 1971
Wisden Cricketer of the Year: 1972
Lists of matches and more detailed statistics

Lancelot Richard Gibbs was one of the most successful spinners in Test cricket history. He took 309 Test wickets, only the second player (after Fred Trueman) to pass 300, the first spinner to pass that milestone, and had an exceptional economy rate of 1.98 runs per over. He was a master of his craft who used his unusually long fingers to turn the ball fiercely and exploited every conceivable change of pace, flight and length.

As a kid Lance kept a collection of cricket clippings and would look out his window to watch Robert Christiani, who lived a few doors down the street, walk by. One of seven children, he joined the Demerara Cricket Club (DCC), across the street from his home at 150 Crown St, at age 14 and practiced with close friends Colin Wiltshire and Mickey Mortimer. The death of his father Ebenezer while Lance was still young provided an impetus for him to become a professional cricketer to provide for his family.

At DCC, Lance was mentored and inspired by Berkeley Gaskin, a senior official at the club at that time. Starting out as a leg-spinner, he changed to off-spin on the advice of former England wicketkeeper Arthur McIntyre, who was coaching in Guyana at that time. As a leg-spinner he could spin the ball but could not bowl the googly. Changing to off-spin gave him greater control and variation.

It was also said that young Lance's leg-spin suffered immensely from the bat of his senior clubmate Robert Christiani, which probably made the switch to off-spin a fairly easy decision.

Having to bowl on the small DCC ground without being hit to the boundary too often, and a rigorous training regimen prepared Lance for a successful international career. He used to jog early in the morning and was the first person at practice and the last to leave. He spent a lot of time practicing his catching, with the ball coming at him from different angles.

Lance made his first-class debut in 1954, playing for Guyana against MCC at his home ground of Bourda. He bowled Denis Compton for 18 to leave the tourists precariously poised at 51/3. Lance also took the wicket of Tom Graveney, but only after a fourth-wicket partnership of 402 between Graveney and Willie Watson set up an innings victory for the MCC.

He made his regional debut the same year against Barbados at Kensington Oval. In his second regional game, also against Barbados, he captured six first innings wickets, including Cammie Smith, Sir Garfield Sobers and Conrad Hunte. Several good performances for British Guiana over the next few years earned him selection for the West Indies side against Pakistan in the West Indies in 1958.

He made his debut in the second Test at Port-of-Spain, taking four wickets in the match, and retained his place for the rest of the five-match series, his first five-wicket haul in first-class cricket coming when he claimed 5/80 in the fourth Test at Bourda. The skilful bowler headed the bowling averages (23.05) with 17 wickets in four Tests.

He toured India in 1957–58, but played in only one Test, in which he went wicketless. In the tour of Pakistan that immediately followed he took eight wickets in three games. However, it was the 1960–61 tour of Australia that was to prove a turning point in Lance's international career: he played only in the last three Tests, but took 19 wickets at 20.78: eight at Sydney (including three wickets off four balls), five at Adelaide (including a hat-trick) and six at Melbourne.

He had been omitted from the side for the first two Tests, including the game’s first tied contest in Brisbane where he was the 12th man.

The early 1960s were Lance's most productive period in Test cricket, and his greatest achievements came in the 1961–62 home series against India. In five Tests he took 24 wickets at just 20.41 runs each, including one of the game's greatest spells of bowling at Bridgetown, where he single-handedly reduced India from 149/2 to 187 all out with eight wickets in 15.3 overs at a total cost of just six runs; Lance's final innings return of 8/38 was his best in a Test match.

In 1963 West Indies toured England, and Lance had another highly successful series, taking 26 wickets at 21.30 including 5/59 and 6/98 in a ten-wicket triumph at Manchester. Further successful series followed: indeed, in eight successive series topped and tailed by the 1960–61 and 1968–69 tours to Australia, Lance never took fewer than 18 Test wickets and took five or more wickets in an innings on 12 occasions.

In 1967 Lance played for Warwickshire in the English County Championship, for whom he would continue to appear each season until 1973, although his appearances in 1969 and 1973 were reduced because of his commitments with West Indies' tours of England. In 1970, after a winter spent with South Australia, he took a career-best 8/37 against Glamorgan, but by far his most successful season in England was 1971, when he claimed 131 first-class wickets at only 18.89, with nine five-wicket hauls. This exceptional performance gained Gibbs a Wisden Cricketer of the Year award in the following year's Almanack.

In 1973, at the age of almost 39, Lance made his One Day International debut against England at Leeds as part of the Prudential Trophy tournament, taking the wicket of England captain Mike Denness. He played only two further ODIs: the first again being against England two days later at the Oval (11–4–12–1 and the wicket of John Jameson), and a single outing against Sri Lanka at Manchester in the 1975 World Cup, in which he bowled just four overs without success.

Lance's' last Test matches were played on the tour of Australia in 1975–76. Although he played in all six Tests, and took 5/102 in the first innings of the first Test at Brisbane, his 16 wickets came at an average of over 40. He passed the milestone of 300 Test victims at Perth by dismissing Gary Gilmour. His last Test match, and indeed his last appearance in senior cricket of any description, was at Melbourne, his 309th and final Test wicket being that – again – of Gilmour.

In addition to being Test cricket’s highest wicket-taker for five years before Dennis Lillee broke the record, Lance was also an outstanding fielder to his own bowling and a gully specialist where he grasped the majority of his 52 catches.

Gibbs' contribution to West Indian cricket is perhaps best summoned up by his cousin and long-time colleague, Clive Lloyd. He said: "There was never a more whole-hearted cricketer for the West Indies, nor an off-spinner in anything like his class. He was by no means a mechanical spinner, instead always thinking about the game, working an opponent out, assessing his strengths and weaknesses and laying the trap for him. A fierce competitor, he would be given a total effort, no matter if the pitch was flat and docile, no matter if the total was 300 for two and the sun scorching, no matter if his finger had been rubbed raw".

When he was not on duty with Guyana or the West Indies, Lance represented Burnley and Whitburn in the Lancashire and Durham leagues respectively, Warwickshire – he enjoyed his best season in 1971 with 131 wickets (av. 18.89) – in the English county championship and South Australia in the Sheffield Shield competition. In 1964 as the first 1000-pound professional in the Durham senior league, he helped Whitburn win the championship with 126 wickets (av. 8.53) which remains a league record.

After his retirement from the game, Lance emigrated to Florida, in the United States, where he lives with his wife, Joy, and their two children – Richard and Kelly-Ann Cartwright – who were successful professionals. Almond Street in Georgetown, Guyana, was named after him and he is the proud owner of a prized International Cricket Council (ICC) Hall of Fame cap presented to 60 of the world’s finest players last year to mark the centenary of the sport’s governing body.

He managed the West Indies touring teams to England in 1991 and to South Africa in 2009. He is also the cricket ambassador for Digicel – the leading mobile service provider in the Caribbean – which is the West Indies team’s sponsor.

Gibbs is the cousin of another great West Indies cricketer, Clive Lloyd, with whom he appeared for West Indies on a number of occasions. (Parts from Wikipedia)

Batting and Fielding Averages
Team Format M I NO Runs HS Ave 100 50 Ct
Demerara FC 1 2 0 7 6 3.50 0 0 0
Guyana FC 39 45 19 263 31 10.12 0 0 18
All FC 330 352 150 1729 43 8.55 0 0 203
All List A 54 25 12 53 8* 4.07 0 0 20
West Indies Test 79 109 39 488 25 6.97 0 0 52
West Indies ODI 3 1 1 0 0* - 0 0 0
Bowling Averages
Team Format M Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10
Demerara FC 1 417 129 10 5/49 10/129 12.90 1.86 41.7 2 2 1
Guyana FC 39 10655 3589 127 6/27 - 28.26 2.02 83.9 - 4 3
All FC 330 78430 27878 1024 8/37 - 27.22 2.13 76.5 - 50 10
All List A 54 2891 1617 64 5/38 5/38 25.26 3.35 45.1 0 1 0
West Indies Test 79 27115 8989 309 8/38 11/157 29.09 1.98 87.7 11 18 2
West Indies ODI 3 156 59 2 1/12 1/12 29.50 2.26 78.0 0 0 0