Why Adam Gilchrist is not in my all-time greatest ODI XI

spruce moose Roar Guru

By spruce moose, spruce moose is a Roar Guru

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    I posted a comment in a Roar article recently where I said that Adam Gilchrist would not make my all time XI.

    I thought that maybe it actually deserves a full article to flesh that out a little bit more, and then explain who goes into my all time ODI XI. I know that suggesting Gilchrist and his immense talents don’t belong in any all time team is borderline sacrilege and is exceptionally controversial, but I stand by it.

    Firstly, I want to state unequivocally that I rate Adam Gilchrist as the best Test wicketkeeper batsman of all time and is always a first three pick in any all-time test XI (Don Bradman and Shane Warne the other two). Adam Gilchrist is responsible for revolutionising the role of a wicketkeeper in both Test and ODI formats, and will always be acknowledged as that person.

    That, in many ways, is the more prestigious honour than any naming in a hypothetical best XI.

    There is nothing hypothetical about his reputation – he changed the game in a bigger way than other legends ever did. He’s more influential than a Bradman, a Brian Lara or a Warne. These three people were exceptionally talented at what they did, but cricket always had batsman and bowlers. They always had wicketkeepers. But they didn’t have keeper-batsman until Gilchrist came long.

    Adam Gilchrist is Neil Armstrong. The first. Deservedly so, the first is always the fondly remembered and widely regarded. But Neil Armstrong didn’t spend the most time on the moon. Nor was his landing the best. His contribution to lunar scientific exploration was dwarfed by subsequent astronauts on future Apollo missions. The torch was passed. Gilchrist is no different.

    Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist

    (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

    My exclusion of Gilchrist comes down to trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Cricinfo a couple of years ago published its list of the top five ODI players of all time which listed Gilchrist, MS Dhoni, Viv Richards, Sachin Tendulkar and Wasim Akram. I completely agree.

    Therein lay a small problem. A top five list was blessed with two wicketkeepers, a unprecedented achievement in its own right, but one of them will have to be omitted from a first XI.

    A team can have multiple fast bowlers, multiple spinners, and multiple batsman, it can’t have multiple wicketkeepers. And despite that some teams can have players who could sub in and out of the gloves (like Brendon McCullum, AB DeVillers, Kumar Sangakkara and to a lesser extent Rahul Dravid) Adam Gilchrist played just five matches out of 287 where he wasn’t wearing the gloves.

    Dhoni has never not been the wicketkeeper in 318 matches.

    These two players are unequivocally full time wicketkeepers and thus only one can be picked in a team.

    Gilchrist statistically has more catches, Dhoni has more stumpings (not surprising for either) and no one would say one was demonstrably better than the other either. You could argue that Gilchrist was a shade better with the gloves but both are clearly excellent keepers and neither had any question marks raised over their abilities with the gloves throughout their career.

    So, we need to also remove their wicket keeping abilities and focus exclusively on their batting – the reason why both are in any top five discussion anyway.

    Both Dhoni and Gilchrist excelled (or in Dhoni’s case continues to excel) in their entirely different batting roles. Gilchrist was a superb top order batsman, working perfectly with Mark Waugh and Matt Hayden to set up platforms for the likes of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Damien Martyn and Andrew Symonds to build on in the first innings, or making life easier for the middle order in the second innings by getting off to a flyer.

    It’s no coincidence their period of complete ODI dominance was during the Gilchrist era.

    MS Dhoni on the other hand is a superb finisher. An incredibly reliable bat in positions five and six ensuring that strong starts by the Indian top and upper middle order were capitalised on, but his real strength lay in shepherding India over the line in difficult targets.

    Both Dhoni and Gilchrist produced their finest on the world stage, and coincidentally, both against Sri Lanka. Gilchrist ensured Sri Lanka weren’t going to win in the 2007 world cup final with a barnstorming century, easily his best of a very strong list.

    Dhoni took the game away from Sri Lanka (when Sri Lanka had their nose in front) with an unbeaten 91 in the 2011 world cup final. Add the burden of captaincy for Dhoni with a billion people expecting victory to truly appreciate that innings.

    India's MS Dhoni bats during their ICC World Twenty20 2016 cricket semifinal match against the West Indies at Wankhede stadium in Mumbai, India,Thursday, March 31, 2016.

    (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

    Statistically, there isn’t much to separate them. Gilchrist batted 279 times for 9600 runs at almost 36. He passed fifty 71 times (16 hundreds in there) and hit at a surreal 96.94. It reinforces his reputation as a dashingly powerful opener.

    Dhoni has had 272 innings for a shade under 10,000 at an unbelievable 51 average. He’s hit 77 50+ totals (10 centuries). Yes, he has many not outs, but that is expected for someone who has spent the bulk of his career at positions five and six.

    It also reinforces his reputation as the best finisher in the game. Throughout his career, and despite his position and role, he’s maintained a very quick clop of 88.4. What is extraordinary it that these two wicketkeepers have batted almost a similar amount of times and have scored almost a similar amount of runs. Dhoni has scored centuries in positions 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 highlighting a his versatility with bat in hand.

    So, when taking into account their roles, statistically it’s hard to separate them. We are still in the pickle of trying to pick only one of them. I can’t even say that one stood out more in teams of mediocrity either.

    Both had the privilege of playing with some of the finest to play the game, and when they were at their peaks. Neither were starved of supporting talent.

    So, how did I come to the conclusion that Dhoni should be in the team at the expense of Gilchrist? Two reasons.

    The first reason is that Dhoni was a captain. In 199 matches as captain he managed to maintain a 53.92 average, hit 53 fifties and took India from a competitive ODI team to a champion team that won the world cup. He took captaincy by the horns and handed the reigns to Kohli as the best ODI captain India ever had and finished with a record second only to Ponting as captain.

    I go back to the 2011 world cup final. Sri Lanka posted a strong total. Dhoni made a ballsy call to promote himself up the order, knowing he’d cop it royal if it backfired. 91 runs and a game ending six later he’s upper cutting himself in the jaw for some weird reason. But he’s a world cup captain with a match defining captain’s knock to rival if not exceed Ponting’s in ’03.

    Gilchrist didn’t have the burden of full time captaincy and although was a senior and respected leader of the Australian team, he wasn’t the one calling the shots.

    The second reason? We have one opener and one finisher. I went with the finisher. Here’s why.

    Gilchrist is one of many excellent ODI openers. However, Gilchrist did not invent rapid starts to an innings (that was indisputably Sanath Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharane and why Sri Lanka won the 1996 world cup), nor does he have the record that other openers have.

    He may have become one of the best openers in the game, but he wasn’t the best during his era (Tendulkar was still leaps and bounds better) and ultimately other people have since become better than him. Gilchrist had a scintillating strike rate to compensate for a decent average. Others had better averages and scoring abilities but were slower by comparison.

    Clearly Sachin Tendulkar takes one spot. For me, the other spot has to go to Hashim Amla. He quietly and calmly destroys teams in the first ten overs of an innings. Secondly, he didn’t have the same generous field restrictions Gilchrist had.

    Gilchrist played the majority of his ODI career where only two people were allowed outside the circle in the first 15 overs. Amla has played his career in an era where you only get ten overs of that.

    While a lot of well-deserved praise goes to Virat Kohli (where if the cricinfo article was written today, Kohli would undoubtedly be on that list) for his exploits, and the smashing of Tendulkar’s records one by one, Amla silently and calmly is breaking all of Kohli’s. And not just breaking them, he’s putting such large margins on them, it will be hard to think they could be broken again.

    At the end of the day, I looked at one opener who averaged 36 and was hitting at 96, against an opener who averages over 50 and strikes at 89. A 50 average as an opener in ODI cricket is just insane and can’t be ignored.

    Amla has hit 26 centuries and will likely finish behind only Tendulkar and Kohli on that list. Amla also happens to go like the wind in the opening ten overs before slowing down when the fielders get to go outside the circle. He just doesn’t do it with the same visual destruction as others.

    MS Dhoni, much like Gilchrist, didn’t invent the role of designated finisher, that was arguably invented (or at least defined) by Michael Bevan. But there is really no one else who could assume Dhoni’s spot at 6. The only other people I could think of as the perfect finishers were Bevan and Michael Hussey. Both Bevan and Dhoni have 50+ averages, both have a heck of a lot of not-outs meaning they performed their role perfectly, but Dhoni just did it quicker. Striking at 89 is much better than 74. Hussey was no slouch, he would hit at 87, and averaged 48.

    But what Dhoni has is that little bit extra. He also has the ability to step it up in a first innings and clear the fence at will – something a Michael Bevan, or a Mike Hussey couldn’t do.

    Each of these three batsman could be depended upon to shepherd a team home, but of those three, only Dhoni could do what few else can – hit a straight six at Adelaide 18 rows over the fence. It seems harsh to say this, because Bevan in both world cup victories never got to bat in a final, but Dhoni did and it was remarkable.

    The rest of the team sort of selects itself.

    Amla – as discussed. Proof that you don’t need it to be raining sixes to be just as effective and quick.

    Tendulkar – obviously.

    Kohli – He’s better than Tendulkar now. He’s also the finest chaser the game has ever seen.

    Richards – Still the greatest. Leaps and bounds better than any of his contemporaries, and an average that is worth 60 in the modern game and would probably strike at well over 100 too. Still not sure whether cricket is poorer or better for him not having David Warner’s cricket bat in his hands.

    De Villers – His strength lies not with building an innings, but with destroying the morale of a team with a good platform. His success is due to Amla building a solid platform for him to then give him the freedom to swing. A true pairing if there ever was one.

    Dhoni – As discussed.

    Akram – Best ODI bowler of all time. Liked to swing the blade like a nine iron for some lusty lower order blows too.

    Warne – As devastating in ODIs as he was in Tests.

    McGrath – Unplayable in ODIs. We’ll rightly remember his Tests better, but he was seriously awesome at ODIs too. Not too many batsman can say that they had his measure.

    Muralitharan – Holds many records, won many more games. Hard to ignore.

    Shane Bond – an out there pick, but he was seriously good. Exceptionally fast, almost always on top of the batsman, saved his best for Australia at their peak as well. Injuries robbed him and us of much more joy.

    That said, I’d also be happy with Waqar Younis in place of Shane Bond if people think his career was too short to be credited with an all time jumper.

    I don’t believe in all-rounders. I think when you are picking a best XI, you wouldn’t need one. Presumably you have to make an assumption you are picking players in a hypothetical team, you pick them to perform as close to their reputations or statistics would suggest they would.

    I accept the omission of Gilchrist is controversial. I think I’ve put up some decent reasons as to why I went the way I did.

    I accept people will almost certainly disagree, and I absolutely want to hear your reasons why you think I’m wrong. But, I only ask that if you disagree, you back it up with reason driven passion, not patriotism driven passion.

    I don’t want to pretend that I have insight into the mind of Gilchrist, but if I was him, I would always prefer my legacy as an epochal figure of the game rather than a placement in a hypothetical team. He’ll always have that over Dhoni or any subsequent keeper-batsman.

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    The Crowd Says (65)

    • Roar Rookie

      February 22nd 2018 @ 7:08am
      savage said | February 22nd 2018 @ 7:08am | ! Report

      Very Good team! But Surely S jayasuriya over Amla.I really like Amla but I don’t think Amla’s Performance is as good as his stats suggests.Nowadays Opening in limited overs cricket has become much easier.As an Opener,R Sharma has scored 4627 @53.80 with Strike Rate(SR) of 91.10.This shows that Sharma stats as an opener is better than Amla and they both play in same era.

      Jayasuriya scored 13430 @32.36 with SR of 91.20.(Not bad for a player of 90s) but not to forget that he has taken 323 wickets(Even more wickets than Warne) @36.75 with economy of 4.78.He would be very useful if one of the bowler have an off day or get injured.

      • Roar Guru

        February 22nd 2018 @ 9:27am
        spruce moose said | February 22nd 2018 @ 9:27am | ! Report

        Actually, Sharma averages 44 in ODI’s, so I’m not sure where you got 53 from. Even if he did average 53, Amla is still better because Sharma is rank ordinary outside of India. Amla is strong everywhere.

        Great call on the Jayasuriya claim. Matches or exceeds all of Gilchrist’s figures and can bowl. A really good call. Had he not played on into this early 40’s his record would be stronger. Age diminished his form.

        I’d probably have no objection with him in instead of Amla.

        • Roar Rookie

          February 22nd 2018 @ 10:03am
          savage said | February 22nd 2018 @ 10:03am | ! Report

          R Sharma averages 53 As an Opener only.Amla is better ODI batsmen than R Sharma (even though his away average is similar to Amla as an “Opener” only).My Point by showing Sharma stats was that Opening is much easier job nowadays.

          BesidesAmla stats against top ranked side is not that great.He has scored 3283 @ 40.53 with SR 83.32 against top ranked sides.{ie Australia,India,Eng and NZ}.In Comparison,R Sharma has scored 2968 @ 43.64 with SR 87.78(against Australia,NZ,SA and ENG) and averages over 50 as an opener against these top ranked sides.

          Sachin was also not opener for first 5 year unlike Ganguly.That’s why Ganguly was quicker than Sachin in scoring 3000,4000,5000,etc runs record.

          Kohli and AB devilliers are not Openers.

          Even in that 320 runs chase in 40 overs,Kohli batted at no 4(after Sehwag,Sachin and Gambhir).Ab deviliers was opener at the start of his career but when he was at his peak,he batted mostly at no 5 position.

          Amla is most likely going to break fastest 8000s record but it’s highly unlikely that he will broke fastest 9000s and 10000s ODI runs record.

          IMO Kohli and AB devilliers are easily Best ODI batsmen of this Generation.My third pick would be MS Dhoni.

          • Roar Guru

            February 22nd 2018 @ 11:54am
            spruce moose said | February 22nd 2018 @ 11:54am | ! Report

            “Amla is most likely going to break fastest 8000s record but it’s highly unlikely that he will broke fastest 9000s and 10000s ODI runs record.

            IMO Kohli and AB devilliers are easily Best ODI batsmen of this Generation.My third pick would be MS Dhoni.”


            “Sachin was also not opener for first 5 year unlike Ganguly. That’s why Ganguly was quicker than Sachin in scoring 3000,4000,5000,etc runs record.” Not sure what batting position has much to do with it. Kohli bats at 3/4 and is breaking them all. You don’t need to open to make those records.

            • Roar Rookie

              February 22nd 2018 @ 6:12pm
              savage said | February 22nd 2018 @ 6:12pm | ! Report

              spruce moose

              Tbh I think I’ve been way too critical of Amla.He is a fabulous player.Amongst the openers (Dhawan,Rohit,D Kock,Warner and Guptill),He is the best batsmen of this generation.
              I think he deserves to break fastest to 2,3,4,5,6000 ODI runs record.Amla has been performing consistently right from the start of his career unlike ABD and Kohli.

              However I do think Openers and no 3 batsmen have slight advantage over middle order batsmen in terms of “runs scored per innings”.

              For Ex-: Kohli has scored 133 in 320 chase.But don’t you think he could’ve scored 170 had he batted in no 3 position or opened instead of batting at no 4 position.Yes he would’ve faced more balls and thus his chances of getting out also increases.But we are only talking about runs scored per innings not about averages.Do you Agree?

    • February 22nd 2018 @ 8:31am
      Basil said | February 22nd 2018 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      Gilchrist for me. He opened so he didn’t have not outs to pad his average. He also faced the new ball when it was swinging and for at least the first 10 overs of the innings he was facing the best bowlers in the team and not the part-timers.

      • Roar Guru

        February 22nd 2018 @ 9:25am
        spruce moose said | February 22nd 2018 @ 9:25am | ! Report

        Hi Basil

        In my article, I discounted the averages of GIlchrist and Dhoni for that very reason.

        Amla also opens and averages over 50+, and has to face the best bowlers.

        You could argue Dhoni has to face the ball when it reverse swings…

        I also have to admit the reason for Savage wanting to include Jayasuriya (323 wickets to go with his opening batting) probably makes it harder for Gilchrist to make the team now. Gilchrist and Jayasuriya batting wise were very similar in performance.

      • Roar Guru

        February 22nd 2018 @ 10:34am
        spruce moose said | February 22nd 2018 @ 10:34am | ! Report

        And if you pick Gilchrist, who’s the number 6? You can’t just shirk that responsibility! :p

    • February 22nd 2018 @ 9:29am
      Spur said | February 22nd 2018 @ 9:29am | ! Report

      I think you’ll find Jeffrey Dujon innovated the batsman/keeper. He wasn’t as good a batsman as Gilchrist, but he was the first real wicketkeeper who could also bat.

      As for Shane Warne, he’s moderately overrated. While people complained that Muttiah Muralitharan harvested the bulk of his wickets against minnow Test nations, Warne plundered England, who couldn’t play spin, and were rubbish.

      • Roar Guru

        February 22nd 2018 @ 9:46am
        Rellum said | February 22nd 2018 @ 9:46am | ! Report

        Rod Marsh showed the value of a keeper who could bat and he came before Dujon.

      • Roar Guru

        February 22nd 2018 @ 9:54am
        spruce moose said | February 22nd 2018 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        @ Spur

        No Dujon didn’t. Gilchrist did. Gilchrist’s batting was so much better than any other wicketkeeper before him it allowed a team to pick an extra bowler (or in Australia’s case, an extra allrounder) without having to sacrifice batting power.

        The vast majority of Dujon’s career was spent at positions 6 or 7.

        And your comments on Warne hold a pinch of currency in tests, but in ODI’s he barely played England. He played more against South Africa, NZ, Pakistan, West Indies.

      • February 22nd 2018 @ 12:22pm
        Blake Standfield said | February 22nd 2018 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

        Lol Warne overrated!

      • Columnist

        February 22nd 2018 @ 12:53pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | February 22nd 2018 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

        “While people complained that Muttiah Muralitharan harvested the bulk of his wickets against minnow Test nations, Warne plundered England.”

        Murali plundered England too – he took 112 wickets at 20 against England in Tests.

        If you remove the Tests Warne and Murali played against the minnow nations of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, their Test records are almost identical:

        Murali ….. 624 wickets at 24.9

        Warne …. 691 wickets at 25.4

        • February 22nd 2018 @ 1:18pm
          BrainsTrust said | February 22nd 2018 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

          To be fair you would have to remove the tests Murali played against Australia the strongest team of the time, a, and Warne against Sri Lanka,.
          Shane Warne had less success in the Shield because of the quality of Australia batting at the time.
          Muralis worst record is against Australia at 36 while Warne performed about the same against Sri Lanka as his regular record.

          • Roar Guru

            February 22nd 2018 @ 2:51pm
            spruce moose said | February 22nd 2018 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

            Or we just go all Olympic judging on this and remove their best, remove their worst and see what we have instead.

            SK Warne’s best record was against Pakistan, worst against India.

            Matches: 115 Wickets 569 Ave: 24.74

            Murali: best record against Bangladesh, worst against Australia

            Matches: 109 Wickets 652 Ave: 22.79

            If you take out the Zimmers then

            Matches: 95 Wickets 565 Ave 23.70

            That latter one is particularly impressive.

    • February 22nd 2018 @ 10:01am
      Taurangaboy said | February 22nd 2018 @ 10:01am | ! Report

      Les Ames.

      • February 22nd 2018 @ 10:57am
        JohnB said | February 22nd 2018 @ 10:57am | ! Report

        Certainly if we’re talking about tests that’s right. Also out of the there’s little new under the sun file, Mark Greatbatch took the hitting out as an opener approach with some success in the 1992 World Cup, when NZ also innovated by (gasp) opening the bowling with a spinner.

    • February 22nd 2018 @ 10:04am
      Brian said | February 22nd 2018 @ 10:04am | ! Report

      I’d have Gilchrist in an ODI all time XI because he opened the batting and his game was much more suited to the shorter format.

      I think its a myth though that he somehow invented keeper batsman. Jeff Dujon averaged 32 in the 1980s. Alec Stewart averaged 40 in the 1990s. Sri Lanka opened with their keeper as part of a strategy to win the World Cup. That was before Gilchrist had played a game. After he came though with a wave of talented keeper batsman – Sangakarra, De Villiers, McCullum.

      Sangakarra was just as good a keeper batsman as Gilchrist. He just was not in the best side in the world where he could bat at No 7

      • Roar Guru

        February 22nd 2018 @ 10:22am
        spruce moose said | February 22nd 2018 @ 10:22am | ! Report

        But Brian, it’s not a discussion of whether Gilchrist was suited to tests or ODI’s.

        I don’t mind people suggesting that Gilchrist should be in there and open, but you’ve then got to find a better number 6 instead of Dhoni. Who would it be?

        The difference between Dujon/Stewart and Gilchrist is that Gilchrist didn’t occupy a wicketkeepers slot in the ODI team. He opened. He freed up the number 7 spot for another player. That’s the influence.

        Kalu did indeed open for Sri Lanka, but it would be a hard call to say he revolutionised the role like Gilchrist did. He was more a pure pinch hitter opener, and his record indicates that too. Gilchrist was an out and out batsman. That’s the difference.

        • Roar Guru

          February 22nd 2018 @ 7:21pm
          Rellum said | February 22nd 2018 @ 7:21pm | ! Report

          Kalu did indeed revolutionise the role of the opener/keeper(mostly opener). He was the one to bring into the mainstream the idea of all out attack in the first 15 overs. That changed the way one dayers were played from then on.

    • Roar Guru

      February 22nd 2018 @ 10:09am
      Anindya Dutta said | February 22nd 2018 @ 10:09am | ! Report

      Super team Spruce. Yeah for me it’s a toss up between Murali and Warne but I fall for a leggie every time and Warnie was a more than useful bat so in an ODI that’s worth a lot. Shane Bond is a great addition. Also at the opening slot having seen (and seen a india suffering at the hands of) Jayasuriya, Inwoudmt mind having him opening with a Tendulkar.

    , ,