Years later, the ‘Gilly’ effect is still being felt

Giri Subramanian Roar Guru

By Giri Subramanian, Giri Subramanian is a Roar Guru

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    I started watching cricket in the early 1990s, when the role of a wicketkeeper in a Test team was to be good with the gloves and contribute some useful runs with the bat.

    Australia had Ian Healy, who was a brilliant keeper and also was a useful bat down the order, at a time when teams were happy with keepers contributing 20s and 30s, with the occasional 50.

    All that changed on November 21, 1999.

    Chasing 369 to win against a strong Pakistan at Bellerive Oval, Australia had lost half their side for just over a 100.

    Justin Langer was holding up one end and Adam Gilchrist, in only his second Test having replaced Healy, came in to join him in the middle.

    The Pakistan bowling attack was a strong one, comprising Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar and Saqlain Mushtaq. Even though Gilchrist had made his ODI debut three years earlier, no one could have predicted what followed over the next 24 hours.

    Gilchrist scored a brilliant, unbeaten 149, Australia chased down the total, and the legend was born. For the next nine years, Gilchrist tormented bowling attacks around the world.

    Gilchrist was brilliant behind the stumps too, was excellent keeping wickets to the legendary Shane Warne, and he had an amazing ODI career as an opener.

    This success made teams world over realise how important the role of a good wicketkeeper-batsman can be, and in an effort to find their own version ended up compromising the primary skills of many a keeper.

    The only other player who did well as a keeper in the ’90s was Andy Flower, but again, he wasn’t as destructive as Gilchrist.

    Mark Boucher was brilliant for South Africa and was decent with the bat. Alec Stewart was good for England, as were Adam Parore and Dave Richardson, but none came even close to the impact Gilly had for Australia.

    In the 2000s we saw Kumar Sangakkara, AB de Villiers, Brendon McCullum and MS Dhoni – all brilliant for their teams – but again, none had the impact of Gilchrist.

    Sangakkara and De Villiers found keeping and batting hard to combine, and gave up their gloves to concentrate on batting. Dhoni was a good keeper but was not effective with the bat overseas. McCullum played just 52 Tests as a keeper before becoming a frontline batter for his side.

    From the current generation, possibly Quinton de Kock comes close, but he has a long way to go before he can be compared to the Aussie.

    Gilchrist not only averaged 47.8 with the bat but also scored those runs at an enormous strike rate of 81.95 – a deadly combination that saw him turn Test matches multiple times during his career.

    Adam Gilchrist set a trend that teams the world over are struggling to follow to this date.

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    The Crowd Says (36)

    • June 21st 2017 @ 12:07pm
      matth said | June 21st 2017 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

      Also that 47 run average was about 53 before he went into his pre-retirement decline. Fabulous player.

      • Roar Guru

        June 21st 2017 @ 12:50pm
        Giri Subramanian said | June 21st 2017 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

        Amazing player and yes he did have few bad years in the end bringing down his average. My favorite player from the all conquering Aussie team.

    • June 21st 2017 @ 1:03pm
      jeff dustby said | June 21st 2017 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

      Jeff Dujon and Alec Stewart were before him

      • Roar Guru

        June 21st 2017 @ 1:50pm
        Giri Subramanian said | June 21st 2017 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

        Jeff Dujon was a phenomenal keeper and bat for West Indies. I had mentioned him in the article but it got edited out. I still feel that Gilly was a notch superior to Jeffrey Dujon and Alec Stewart. The similarity between Dujon and Gilly is quite extraordinary as both played for brilliant teams and strong batting line ups and still stood out with their performances. Stewart was my favourite player from England through the 90’s, he was aggressive for his time and scored runs at a fair clip. His hundreds in both innings against West Indies being the highlight in tests.

        • June 23rd 2017 @ 9:48am
          Hewy said | June 23rd 2017 @ 9:48am | ! Report

          Alec Stewart scored more runs in the decade of the 90’s than any other test cricketer.

          • Roar Guru

            June 23rd 2017 @ 10:54am
            Giri Subramanian said | June 23rd 2017 @ 10:54am | ! Report

            Alec Stewart was a brilliant player and I had a section on him in the article which got edited out. He was my favourite English batsmen through the 90’s. I am not questioning the ability of any of the other wicket keepers in the 90’s or even before that. But the fact remains that only after Gilly’s debut and success did other cricketing nations start to invest in Keepers who can score big runs. Alec Stewart did that before Gilly and was a very good opener for England before he moved down the order later in his career but Gilly brought about a change in the thinking of rest of the world which is why I call him the trend setter.

            • June 23rd 2017 @ 11:15am
              Brian said | June 23rd 2017 @ 11:15am | ! Report

              Seems a bit overdone. Sangakarra made his debut around the same time as Gilly, played in a much poorer team, performed about as well so how is he not trend setting.

              McCullum and Boucher are another two who played at the time in poorer teams. Gilly was a great player but I do not understand this revolutionary angle. Everyone wanted a keeper who could bat well as they do now.

              • Roar Guru

                June 23rd 2017 @ 11:51am
                Giri Subramanian said | June 23rd 2017 @ 11:51am | ! Report

                Sangakkara wasn’t a star in the 90’s and his batting only reached peak level after he dropped his gloves to concentrate on his batting. He did decent but again hardly created any impact until after the 2000’s. SL won the WC in 1996, so I don’t think they were a weak team per say. Boucher did not play for a poor team. SA were the second best team after Australian in the 90’s. There is an argument that SA might have been even better than the Aussies for a period of time in tests. Mark Boucher did decent for SA and averaged in early 30’s but was not someone who could turn games with his bat. Brendon McCullum did not make is test debut till 2004.

                Gilchrist was a unique case. He was so good that he could walk into lots of X1’s as a specialist batsman. He surely was a trendsetter in terms of a very good keeper who doubled up as a All time great batter. I don’t think any team had someone like him for a long period of time. Sangakkar and ABD dropped their gloves after 48 and 24 games respectively, so I don’t consider them as full time keepers. Sanga played 134 tests and majority as a specialist batsman. ABD has played 106 and majority of them as batter as well. McCullum also only played 52 games as keeper out of his 101 tests. So all the above keepers gave up their gloves to specialist batters for their sides so not a comparison with Gilly who played as a keeper for 96 tests and maintained superior batting average during that time.

                Only Boucher and Dhoni played all their games as keepers and they were not as effective or in the same class as Gilly was. So yes, teams including Australia are trying to find their own Gilchrist even now. QDK might be the one but again he has a long way to go.

    • Roar Guru

      June 21st 2017 @ 1:32pm
      Rellum said | June 21st 2017 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

      Kaluwitharana preceded Gilly in a way. He was a player who really changed the way ODI’s and even cricket where played. Aggressive batting keeper opening in ODI’s.

      • Roar Guru

        June 21st 2017 @ 1:46pm
        Giri Subramanian said | June 21st 2017 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

        Kaluwitharana, started brilliantly but could not keep up with the bat. He was very talented but never blossomed into a reliable bat for SL. He did start with that brilliant hundred against Australia in tests but he never kicked on. His average of 26 in tests and 22 in ODI does not do justice to his talent but again he never fulfilled his full potential. He cannot be compared to Gilchrist, though they both were attacking batters, Kalu fizzled out after a good start, Gilly is a legend of the game. Huge difference.

        • Roar Guru

          June 21st 2017 @ 3:55pm
          Rellum said | June 21st 2017 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

          They are not comparable of course but Kaluwitharana started a new way of playing One Day cricket, going blazing in the first 15 overs. Only maybe Haynes and Greenidge every really did that before, but Kaluwitharana made it a distinct tactic.

          • Roar Guru

            June 21st 2017 @ 4:16pm
            Giri Subramanian said | June 21st 2017 @ 4:16pm | ! Report

            To be really frank the 15 overs hitting was pioneered by Mark Greatbatch in 1992 world cup in New Zealand/Australia. Those were the days when teams conserved their wickets in the first 15 overs and then built towards a competitive total. New Zealand’s tactics in the first 15 overs took all teams by surprise. New Zealand started with Latham and Wright in the first couple of games and then brought in Greatbatch in the 3rd game against South Africa and he scored 68 from 60 balls. He was one of the major reasons for NZ reaching the Semis along with obviously the legendary Martin Crowe. So in the 90’s I would say it would be Greatbatch who started the trend and followed by teams like India when Sachin Was promoted to open. Before Kalu opened the batting Sachin who opened in the absence of Siddhu against NZ score 82 of 49 balls and continued to open to take advantage of the 15 over field restrictions. Even Krish Srikkanth did that in 1991/92 season in Australia.

            Sri Lanka’s case was different as both Jayasuriya and Kalu weren’t openers. They were sent in as pinch hitters which was a novel idea then due to which the legendary Jaya was born. And also SL were the only team which had both their openers going after the bowling. The rest of the teams had one normal opener and one aggressive one. But the 15 over rule was utilised by players before Kalu and Jaya did in 1994/95.

            • Roar Guru

              June 21st 2017 @ 4:42pm
              Rellum said | June 21st 2017 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

              Well like I said Haynes and Greenidge used to blast away at the top of the order regularly. No one really saw it as a specific tactic at the time, the just saw two guys who made everyone else look pedestrian with traditional shots, Greenidge especially went hard early on.

              Like you say the difference with Kaluwitharana was he was a keeper basically sent into pinch hit to take advantage of the first 15 overs. That was a first at the time.

            • Roar Guru

              June 21st 2017 @ 4:45pm
              The Bush said | June 21st 2017 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

              It’s funny how life is cyclical. The tactic now is to again conserve wickets and then explode in the last 20 or so, as opposed to explode, consolidate, explode again from circa 95-2010. Some of it is T20, some of it is the fielding restrictions, some of it just tactics. Of course just starting off solid these days, with big bats and short fields, would seem explosive back in the day.

    • Roar Guru

      June 21st 2017 @ 2:00pm
      Giri Subramanian said | June 21st 2017 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

      I still very clearly remember the 1995 tri-series in Australia when Kalu and Jayasuriya opened for the first time. Kaluwitharana dominated the partnership a lot and played brilliantly against the Aussie bowling attack. At that time I used to think this guy is going to be the next big thing in world cricket. A year later after SL had won the world cup, the venue was Singapore, Opening partnership for 70 odd and Kalu was dismissed for a 0. He had completely lost it. Whenever India played SL, I only worried about Jayasuriya as Kaluwitharana always found a way to get himself out. He was surely one guy who should have been a great for the talent he possessed but ended up as a decent wicket keeper bat like plenty of others during that time.

    • June 21st 2017 @ 2:26pm
      spruce moose said | June 21st 2017 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

      Great read.

      There has been no one who has had such a role-defining impact on the game as Adam Gilchrist had.

    • Roar Guru

      June 21st 2017 @ 3:24pm
      Anindya Dutta said | June 21st 2017 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

      The best wicketkeeper-batsman of all time. Redefined what a modern wicketkeeper should be. Nice bloke too from all accounts.

      • Roar Guru

        June 21st 2017 @ 3:34pm
        Giri Subramanian said | June 21st 2017 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

        Yup one of the nicest guys to play cricket. Also a walker when dismissed, something unheard of in the modern game.

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