Adam Gilchrist: The player he chose to be!
How many times have you seen a batsman nicking the ball and walking off even before the appeal goes up? How many times have you heard the familiar encouragement of “Come on, Shane!” in a test match? How many times have you seen the Australian score board reading 40/1 within six overs?? – Put it all together and that is the number of times you have seen the flamboyant Australian ex wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist in action. Gilchrist has been an enigma, a quandary for the mundane cricket fan, who has always perceived the Australians to be haughty and arrogant. He was a breath of fresh air, whose amicable nature never failed to put a smile on our faces.
Gilchrist has been an asset to the Australian team, having set a bench-mark of being the aggressor in the team. His explosive starts made sure that the bowling team’s concentration is on him, while the player at the other end takes his time to settle down. He used to build his innings in an inimitably “Gilly” style like a bullet that has gathered momentum. It was difficult to stop him once he got going. His quick scoring methods always pushed the opposition on the back foot, making it a walk in the park for the other batsmen, whenever he has excelled.
“I would be comfortable batting anywhere” – Gilchrist not only gave the much needed start for his team, but was flexible throughout his career, understanding the needs of his team and operating accordingly. His wicker-keeping ability was a different story altogether. Being a lanky framed person, which is not an ideal build for a wicket-keeper, Gilly managed to adapt to suit the needs of a typical Australian keeper. He’s a fan of Ian Healy, the legendary wicket keeper in the late 80’s and 90’s, who had a tough time behind the wickets, keeping for bowlers like Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson. Gilchrist’s job was no lesser, having had to attune for a variety of bowlers.
“To walk off with a keeping performance like that, I took every chance that came my way really, that’s as pleasing as anything I can do in the game of cricket.” The likes of Brett Lee, Glenn Mcgrath and Jason Gillespie have always held him in high regard for the sense of confidence he gives them whilst bowling. Any bowler needs to be sure of the catchers they have around the bat and Australian bowlers couldn’t have asked for more. Gilly was always on his toes, expecting the ball to be everywhere and leaping at a moment’s notice.
His commitment to the game was simply astounding, and he took his keeping skills to a new height. Sample this: In a one day match, the field was missing a square leg, and the batsman was lucky enough to work the ball towards the region. Gilly showed immense presence of mind, sprinting after the ball and pulling it just before it reached the boundary, saving a valuable run. It might not be much in the context of the match, but the commitment is what matters.
Many people say that Gilchrist was not sportive enough, referring to the comments he made against the Little Master and Muttiah Muralitharan in his autobiography, but on the contrary he has never held back, when it comes to praising fellow players’ performances. “If anyone has a chance to reach the 200 mark, it is Sachin Tendulkar!” But that’s only a small sample of how big hearted he really is. In the Indian Premier League’s second season, Manish Pandey scored a blistering century against Deccan Chargers, the team Gilchrist skippered. He ran to Pandey after the knock, shook his hands and had a word of praise for the youngster, a gesture which moved me, compared to the taunts that Symonds was too generous to offer Pandey the very next time the two teams met. It shows the measure of Gilchrist’s character, who went out of his way to appreciate an effort, even if it was by an opponent.
Even after being selfless, controversies never seized to surround him. He has been the object of criticisms whenever the infamous “walking incident” in the semifinals of the 2003 World Cup is mentioned. It could have been disastrous for the team’s chances but he chose to walk nonetheless. He drew criticism from fellow Australians for deserting the team at such a crucial juncture. Mixed with the controversial autobiography that he penned after his retirement, it has indeed been a roller coaster ride for the Western Australian.
He is prominently remembered, for the whirlwind knock that he played against Sri Lanka, in the finals of the 2007 World Cup. He scored a quick fire century to help the defending champions win the trophy. Controversy did not desert him either, and he was blamed for having squash balls inside his batting gloves for grip. He was cleared nevertheless and his innings was certified as one of the best in a World Cup by the cricket pundits.
Gilchrist has many superior records to his name, being the best wicket-keeper batsman ever for Australia. He has more than 800 dismissals to his credit, and has been known to be quick on his feet. The record century in 57 balls in a test match shows his class as the run accumulator for the Aussie team in any given situation.
The phenomenal cricketer is still in action in the IPL and has always managed to give advice to any aspiring cricketer. He was responsible for the emergence of many domestic cricketers, including Pragyan Ojha who was impressive under his captaincy. Gilchrist is a good Samaritan, gentleman and above all a national hero to all budding Australian players who look up to him for guidance and inspiration!