From the day I started understanding the nuances of cricket and followed the sport, my dad would always chide me with the fact that I had missed the golden generation – the 80’s. He told me a story about how a great batsman continued chewing gum after being hit by a cricket ball on the jaw and hit the next ball for a six as far as upto 20 rows back. And, this great batsman was none other than the legendary, Sir Vivian Richards! Hearing this, would fill me with a great sense of envy and even a bit of anger. Lets be honest, who doesn’t like a smash, mouth in-your face batsman who thrashes bowlers to all parts of the park and does it with so much of consistency? I always wondered how Sir Vivian Richards batted. Now I know; having seen Adam Gilchrist bat, I can imagine how Sir Vivian Richards would have batted.
Adam Craig Gilchrist made his debut at the age of 24 against the South Africans in Faridabad. However, his real arrival in International Cricket was in January 1998 when he was promoted as the opening batsmen in the one-day team. In just his second match, he smashed a 100 from 104 deliveries to guide Australia to a comfortable win over South Africa at the SCG. This, as it turned out, was a preview of the revolution that came about in the concept of the wicket keeper batsman. He also deserves the credit for completely changing the approach of a No. 7 batsman in a test match. In his second Test itself, he was part of one of the most remarkable come-from-behind Test victories. Australia had fallen to 5 for 126, chasing 369 to beat Pakistan. Gilchrist and Justin Langer combined for a 238-run stand to win the match. Gilchrist’s contribution was 149 not-out from 163 balls.
Wisden once described him as follows: “Gilchrist was playing with them like a cat keeping a half-dead mouse alive for entertainment”. This statement came after Gilchrist smacked a run from a ball, 204 against South Africa. This was the fastest double-hundred of the time. He was a big match player, almost all his cherished knocks came in the business ends of the tournaments. It is hard for us Indians to forget the 2003 World Cup final, when he canned Zaheer Khan after the latter dared to eyeball him in the first over. He also pulverized our southern neighbors with a 104 ball 149 in the more recent 2007 World Cup final. He was also one of the only genuine walkers in the game. This added to his credibility in a generally notorious Australian squad.
His retirement from competitive cricket comes as a surprise. However, like any other Aussie cricketer, Gilchrist insisted on leaving while he was at his peak. I feel sad for those have missed this enigma on a cricket field. I still feel sad for myself because my dad continues to chide me, saying, “I saw both Viv and Gilly in one lifetime!”
[image courtesy: http://www.cricket-online.org/ and http://cache.viewimages.com/]