Continuing with our series on the greatest cricketers of all time, here’s No. 9 on our list.
No. 9 – Adam Gilchrist
There used to be a time when a wicket-keeper was selected solely for his ability behind the stumps. Sure, if he could hold a bat, all the better. But that wasn’t a pre-requisite. The sight of a keeper walking out to bat at number 10 or 11 was not uncommon.
There was one man who changed all of that forever. Today, prodigious keepers who aren’t quite as talented with the bat must be cursing Adam Gilchrist. Before the swashbuckling Western Australian burst on to the international scene, the modern-day requirement for a keeper to bat at 7 and average over 30 seemed unthinkable.
Adam Gilchrist once described his cricketing philosophy as simply as, “just hit the ball”. He certainly lived up to that philosophy, as over the course of his remarkable career, he became one of the most exhilarating cricketers to ever play the game. Throughout his career he played in the all-conquering Australian sides of the late 90s and mid 2000s. He was an essential cog in the the unstoppable wheel which was Australian cricket.
Undoubtedly, there has never been a more effective no.7 in Test history. Whether coming in at 40-5 or 400-5, Gilchrist would stamp his authority on the game, either by taking the game completely out of the opposition’s hands or by pulling Australia back into a position of strength. Granted, Gilchrist rarely had to come in at 40-5. But there were occasions when he was required to dig Australia out of a hole. One thinks of his innings against Pakistan at Hobart, when, in tandem with Justin Langer, he dug Australia out of a seemingly lost situation. The fact that he did so against bowlers of the quality of Saqlain Mushtaq, Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram is even more impressive. It was that innings which was perhaps the moment at which he truly took the Test stage by storm. He certainly didn’t look back.
Gilchrist made batting look easy. His uncomplicated technique and relentlessly aggressive mindset combined to produce runs at a casually electric pace, something that no other batsman has achieved either before him or after him, with the possible exception of Virender Sehwag. Perhaps Gilchrist’s greatest asset was his ability to manufacture boundaries out of decent balls. He could slash his way to a quickfire 50 or hoick his way to a thundering century before the opposition bowlers even realized what they were doing wrong, or if they were doing anything wrong at all.
Given Gilchrist’s tremendous batting exploits, it is easy to overlook his proficiency as a wicket-keeper. But if there was one thing that the great Australian teams of the recent past could depend on, it was the safety that Gilchrist provided behind the stumps. His glove-work, specially when facing the wizardry of Shane Warne, was effective, efficient and occasionally, brilliant. So solid was Gilchrist with his wicket-keeping skills that he never let his side feel the absence of his predecessor, the great Ian Healy. And that is saying something.
The Test arena was not the only one in which Gilchrist shone. As an opener in the one-day game, he took on the role of the pinch-hitter, and took that role to a new level. No longer was a quick 30 regarded as a success. Gilchrist scored at an incredible 96 runs per ball and scored 16 hundreds. As one-day batsmen go, Gilchrist is up there with the greatest of all time.
His one-day pedigree was best exemplified on the biggest stages. He scored 54 and 57 in the 1999 and 2003 World Cup finals respectively, both of which Australia won handily. Then in 2007 he took the Sri Lankan attack apart in a devastating innings which will go down as one of the best ever. His 149 from 104 balls took the final away from Sri Lanka and secured Australia a record 3 World Cups in a row.
Since his retirement in 2008 no keeper has quite managed to reach the same heights that Gilchrist did, certainly not in the same manner. His legacy will be cherished for the remainder of time as he, perhaps more than anyone else in recent history, has changed the face of cricket forever.
And now, here is a highlights clip of the one innings that demonstrates the true destructive force of Gilchrist’s bat – his unbeaten century against England in the 2006 Ashes, which is the second-fastest century ever scored in the history of cricket. ‘Brutal’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.
These are the other players who have made it so far:
No. 20 – Bill O’Reilly; No. 19 – Fred Trueman; No. 18 – Dennis Lillee; No. 17 – Sunil Gavaskar; No. 16 – Steve Waugh; No. 15 – Kapil Dev; No. 14 – Malcolm Marshall; No. 13 – Glenn McGrath; No. 12 – Imran Khan; No. 11 – Brian Lara; No. 10 – Jack Hobbs
Read the detailed write-ups on all the players in this list here: