Going in first or seventh, wearing whites or colored uniform, Adam Gilchrist was the heart of Australian cricket. He is undoubtedly one of the most exhilarating cricketers of the modern age. He was simultaneously a cheerful throwback to more innocent times, a country boy who walked out of the field even when given not-out in World Cup semi-final.
The role of a wicket-keeper batsman primarily included keeping duties with the runs scored by the gloveman deemed as a bonus. But all of this changed with the arrival of Adam Gilchrist who revolutionized the role forever.
Known as “Churchy” by his teammates, there was just one unique style that he knew. Gilchrist knew only one style of batting, attack. Whichever jersey he was wearing, whichever number he was playing at, he came at the crease to just annihilate the opposition. He never let the scoreboard and the pitch affect his batting.
‘Gilly’ was called up for the Australian One-Day International team in 1996. He made his much-anticipated debut against South Africa at Faridabad on 25th October of that year. He was primarily used as a back up to the evergreen Ian Healy who was starting to age at that point. While not particularly impressive with the bat on his debut, scoring 18 before being bowled by South African legend Allan Donald. In that same match, he picked up his first catch as an international wicketkeeper. Hansie Cronje departing for a golden duck.
The wicketkeeper-batsman continued giving good performances for his team, whenever he got the chance to wear the Aussie jersey.
His moment of glory came in the year 1999 when he not only made his Test debut for the Kangaroos, he also had an amazing year in One-Day Internationals. He amassed more than 1200 runs in the calendar year. Then came the World Cup. He was not successful at the start of the highly prestigious tournament, scoring just 20 runs in the first three matches of the group stage. He played a blistering knock of 63 off just 39 balls against Bangladesh and took his team through the Super Sixes. The Aussies reached the finals and Gilchrist’s 54 helped his team win the first world title since 1987 with an eight-wicket win over Pakistan.
Gilchrist showed the world that he is a complete player when he scored a scintillating century to help guide Australia to victory in a game that looked well beyond their reach. The Aussies were struggling at 126 for the loss of five wickets in pursuit of 369 for the victory as he joined his Western Australian teammate, Justin Langer. The pair went on to put a strong 238-run stand to seal an Australian win. He finished the season with a high, scoring 485 runs in six matches at an average of 69.28. Hitting three centuries and two fifties during the season, he made everyone believe that Australia has got one more legend in their team.
From then, it was a wonderful journey which transformed the boy into a man. A gentleman.
Gilchrist is one of the rare players who has won the World Cup as the Aussies followed up their triumph with titles in the years 2003 and 2007 as well. He was always a big match player and continued his golden run in all the three finals. In 2007 World Cup Final, he smashed every Sri Lankan bowler out of the park and became immortal in the eyes of every lover of the game. He played a thunderous knock of 149 off just 104 balls, hitting 13 fours and 8 sixes during his inning. Gilchrist took his team to a defendable total of 281 and eventually went on to win the cup.
Gilly was considered to be one of the greatest wicketkeepers in the world and has the stats to prove it. He took over 379 catches in the 96 Test matches that he played for his team and has over 417 catches in the shorter format of the game. The former Australian wicketkeeper also has more than 90 stumpings in international cricket.
He was the first player to score 100 sixes in Test cricket, and amassed over 5570 runs from the 137 innings he played, with an amazing average of 47.60. He also had 9619 runs in the shorter format of the game and averaged more than 36 in One-Day Internationals. His pairing alongside Matthew Hayden at the top of the order considered to be one of the most feared opening pairs ever.
Gilly was a gentleman and he took the saying – ‘Cricket is a gentleman’s game’ – pretty seriously. He played the game with a true spirit. Gilly was a friendly character both on and off the field and was widely respected by every opposition of this world. That shows what kind of man he is. The whole stadium cried when he raised his bat for the last time.
‘Men may come and men may go, but legends last forever’. And Gilchrist was a true ‘LEGEND OF THE GAME’.
About the Author
Sports Journalist by profession, a Cricket Fanatic by passion. Aayush Sharma has been following the game of cricket since childhood and considers Sachin Tendulkar as his idol. When in free time, he loves to read books or go out and play some gully cricket with friends. For him, Tennis ace Roger Federer and F1 Legend Michael Schumacher are the only sportspersons that reach the level of Tendulkar