Gibbs is still welcome in the team: Smith

Johannesburg: Despite being accused of creating a divide in the team by Herschelle Gibbs in his autobiography, `To the Point`, South Africa skipper Graeme Smith said the out-of-favour opener could still make a
comeback to the national team.

"Like every other player he is still welcome in the team, as long as his performances justify it and if he is willing to have an open discussion with every guy he discusses in the book," said Smith.

"The team and the game are more important than any player, and that includes myself," he added.

In the tell-all book, Gibbs wrote that Smith was "hopelessly too powerful" and even coach Mickey Arthur struggled to assert himself when faced with the skipper.

The book also gave accounts of his sexual escapades, involving other South African players as well, during overseas tours, and his fight against alcohol abuse.

"I haven`t read the book yet but I have to confess that the rest of the team and I are hurt by some of the things he says," Smith was quoted as saying by `Sport24`.

"It is outrageous to allege that there is a culture of debauchery, because we would definitely not have been able to achieve so much success recently if we got falling-down drunk every couple of nights and partied in our hotel rooms with strange women until the early hours of the morning," Smith said.

Coming back to accusations of divisions in the South Africa squad, Smith said, "In every team there is usually a group of senior players that takes the lead, just like in a successful business."

"If Herschelle ever felt left out, it`s a sign of his own insecurity. Someone like A B is far more junior to him and should never have been a threat to him."

According to Smith, despite everything, the team carried Gibbs "through the most difficult times of his life".

"We were (the only people) he could count on for support during his messy divorce and his fight against alcohol abuse, and that`s why we don`t understand why he has turned against us like this now," Smith asked.

"I have sent him an SMS to find out why he did this."

The South African skipper felt the media has blown the issue (out of proportion) and said that he would still "like to stay friends" with Gibbs.

Admitting that the book had caused a stir among quite a few South African cricketers long before it`s release, Smith said, "We were aware of it and it made a few of the guys nervous, but I`m not really surprised."

"It corresponds with the way he lived his life? on the edge ? but it`s sad that he`ll now be remembered for his antics," said Smith.

"He was an excellent player, and we all know that he should have achieved so much more with the talent that he has."