THERE are some Durham legends on show in our benefit game on Friday evening – but arguably none who have helped change Durham’s course of history more than Ottis Gibson.
We’re delighted the West Indies head coach is turning out for the Legends team against the Jets.
Ottis played against us when he was at Leicestershire and we knew what a tough competitor he was, one of the fiercest we’ve ever come up against, so even at the ripe old age of 37 when he joined us, he was still as hungry as ever.
He took 80 wickets in his last season with us before retiring, which shows the class of the man.
Ottis (pictured, right) was primarily known as a bowler, but he was always more than capable with the bat, and the 155 he scored against Yorkshire in 2006 stands out as one of the key moments of his Durham career – and one of the most defining moments in the county’s history.
His 315-run partnership with Dale Benkenstein – after we were reduced to 191-6 in reply to Yorkshire’s massive 677-7 declared – ensured we beat relegation from Division One by just half a point.
It was a massive turning point for Durham. A year later, we won the Friends Provident Trophy at Lord’s, where Ottis was man of the match, and followed it up with two successive County Championships.
It’s hard to speculate what impact relegation would have had, and we’ll never know where we could be know, but one thing is for certain, we wouldn’t have been able to attract some of the top players like Ian Blackwell to the club if we’d been in the second division.
As well as that fantastic innings, everyone will remember Ottis for taking all 10 wickets in an innings against Hampshire, and also that Friends Provident win against the same side.
In the team meeting before the game, we went through their batsmen and the plans we had for them. Ottis simply said ‘leave Michael Lumb and Kevin Pietersen to me, I’ll get them out’.
He knew how to dismiss them and true enough, he went out and knocked them over, taking two wickets with the first two balls of the innings, then having KP caught to leave them 17-3.
He just loved getting the big names out. He did the same in a championship match against Yorkshire, telling us he’d get England captain Michael Vaughan. He went out, peppered him with short balls and eventually had him caught at short square leg.
Ottis just had an incredible belief and confidence in his ability to deliver, and boy did he back it up on the pitch.
But the thing that stood out the most with him was his competitive nature. Like Paul Collingwood, he just always wanted to be the best he could, set the highest standards, and it’s no surprise he has ended up coaching at the highest level.
He was a straight shooter in the changing room. It didn’t matter who you were, experienced player with a high profile or a youngster making his way, if he felt something needed saying then he would.
There was a couple of time where he tore into players, but it was always fully justified.
You need strong characters like that to be successful. Everyone knows where they stand and you can move forward. If you’re just going to blow smoke up players’ backsides even when they are doing things wrong then you are never going to learn, and Ottis was great at dealing with issues like that.
We hear stories about him having words and the odd fall-out with the West Indies team now, but as a team they are doing better now than they have been in a long time.
He did a fantastic job as bowling coach with England and it’s no surprise that he’s a success with the West Indies too.
Let’s just hope he hasn’t still got that golden arm when he faces the Jets on Friday!
H The T20 game takes place at Durham School on Friday (5.30pm start). Tickets are £5 adults and kids £3 payable on the gate, while corporate tables are also still available. See www.gforce14.co.uk for more details.