A CHILL wind hung in the early-summer air as Herschelle Gibbs was finally introduced as a Durham player.
By the end of an entertaining half hour in the company of the charismatic South African, it felt more like a breath of fresh air ready to reinvigorate this wretched Emirates IGC season.
Durham need it, as a campaign threatening to turn into a compendium of catastrophes continues to churn out bad news.
While Gibbs prepares to bring his explosive brand of off-the-cuff batting to Durham’s Twenty20 campaign, the team will have to do without Paul Collingwood for a month after an MRI scan revealed a broken bone in his hand.
To the depressed denizens of Durham’s dressing room it must feel like this season is cursed.
A good job, then, their latest addition is not the sort to indulge in navel gazing or feeling sorry for himself.
Gibbs arrives as Durham’s gun-for-hire, having just completed a slightly under-par stint in the IPL with the Mumbai Indians.
He will pack his bags and head for Sri Lanka in just over a month but is available to play again if Durham progress to the finals day – something he believes is a serious possibility if the team can begin to fulfil its untapped potential.
For that to happen, you suspect Gibbs will have to hit the ground running and revive flat-lining confidence.
A quick glance at a CV which includes nearly 100 Test caps for South Africa, some 8,000 runs in T20 as well as a few scrapes with the authorities confirms life is unlikely to be dull while he is around.
“This is the format which brings the most entertainment and I have always been about that,” he told The Journal after surveying the Emirates IGC pitch for the first time.
“I would love to give the supporters here something to remember me by at the end of my time here.
“I have always been lucky for all the teams I have played for in that we have gone deep in the tournament.
“I know we maybe need that little bit of confidence but this is a fresh format and a new start.
“It is vitally important we hit the straps early and get a bit of that momentum behind us.
“I am not feeling any pressure, to be honest. Wherever you go you want to live up to the reputation you might arrive with and there is always going to be pressure which, to be honest, I enjoy.
“I will play my way and play in that instinctive fashion – that will always be my approach.
“I am really looking forward to it and hopefully I can be a positive influence and get us at least into the quarters.”
Breezing into his second dressing room of the summer, Gibbs admits his new calling as a touring T20 specialist has been tough to get to grips with.
Never mind the difficulties of packing for an English June and then a Sri Lankan July, Gibbs also has to hit the ground running with colleagues whom he might never have met before.
Luckily he comes armed with prior knowledge of Durham veteran Dale Benkenstein – who memorably describes Gibbs as “sociable but very professional” – and a vicious sense of humour which should go down well.
Gibbs added: “It is a strange existence but it is good fun.
“I like to get around and have a look when I am new in places and I gather there are a few single lads in the dressing room – I am sure they will be hospitable and show me around!
“I believe the people up north are very hospitable too, although I know it gets cold up here.
“I have not heard of the Quayside in Newcastle but I look forward to finding out about it!”
Durham have a mixed relationship with the shortest form of the game but this season they will look to T20 for some respite from their County championship woes.
Signing Gibbs is a statement of intent from a county which took a while to warm to the format, as well as an indication to the other teams in their group they could be serious players in this year’s competition.
With the promise of serious prize money towards the latter stages, it is little wonder that they are taking it deadly seriously this time around.
They begin a month of ten T20 clashes with a trip to Gibbs’ former hunting ground Headingley on Friday before opening their home campaign with the visit of Nottinghamshire Outlaws on Sunday.
Detractors of the discipline continue to argue T20 remains the vulgar little sibling of Test cricket but Gibbs is a passionate advocate of a game that, while not particularly nuanced, is certainly fun.
Besides, the 38-year-old says, there is a more to it than simply hitting and hoping.
He admits: “Look, I will have a crack at most things, but it is about the shot selection, because you can get caught in the moment irrespective of how long you have played the game.
“It is one where your temperament gets tested – along with your skill. It is a confidence thing and you need to back yourself ten times out of ten.”