He just loves to entertain

Gilchrist-P. V. SIVAKUMAR

The concept of wicketkeeping, according to Adam Gilchrist, has changed both in Tests and one-dayers. “Very few can survive on a single facet of the game. You have to be good in many departments,” says the former Australian wicketkeeper-batsman in a chat with V. V. Subrahmanyam.

Adam Gilchrist, 36, may have quit international cricket, but the flamboyant cricketer, who redefined the role of a wicketkeeper-batsman in both the Tests and one-day internationals, is back in action as a member of Hyderabad’s Deccan Chargers in the Indian Premier League, much to the delight of his fans in the country.

The explosive batsman from Australia shared his thoughts in a chat with Sportstar on the sidelines of the IPL.

According to Gilchrist, he never took his place in the Australian team for granted and always strived to improve his game, be it in Tests, ODIs or Twenty20.

“I was fortunate to start my training under Rodney Marsh, my childhood hero, at the Australian Academy. And when I got the chance to play for my country, I said to myself: ‘you try to be Gilchrist and no one else’. There was no conscious or sub-conscious effort to try to copy either Marsh or Ian Healy, who I replaced. And now, I am happy after 12 wonderful years of international cricket,” explained Gilchrist, who was a part of Australia’s World Cup-winning teams of 1999, 2003 and 2007.

He is of the view that the concept of wicketkeeping has changed both in Tests and one-dayers. “Very few can survive on a single facet of the game. You have to be good in many departments,” Gilchrist explained.

How difficult was it for him to be a gentleman in an aggressive Australian side?

“It has to do with your personality, how you play your cricket. Sometimes it works and sometimes doesn’t. You have to trust yourself ultimately,” he said of his exemplary behaviour on the field. And quite significantly, according to Gilchrist, there is more talk about sledging than actual sledging, which is intriguing.

“I never coveted captaincy. I never had a feeling that I must do the job. The few times I led, it just came my way and I always take pride in saying that Ricky Ponting does a fantastic job as the leader,” he said when asked what he thought of captaining Australia.

All of Gilchrist’s 16 centuries in one-day internationals have been match-winning knocks, fetching him 15 Man of the Match awards. Yet, Test cricket continues to be the highlight of his career. “It is a different game altogether with so many nuances,” asserted the Australian, who has played 96 Tests and scored 5570 runs.

Gilchrist, the Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 2002, said that the long gap of three years, from 1996 to 1999, between his one-day debut and his first Test only heightened his desire to be more successful. “Honestly, it was never frustrating. In a way it helped me get a feel of the international game and made me comfortable in the Test side eventually,” he said.

Considering that he was among the many Australian cricketers who were drafted into the Test side in their late 20s, Gilchrist has no complaints. He doesn’t find fault with the system either. “It is a funny perception. There was an era when young players were given the push very early. It is not the case any more. Players stay in the game much longer now-a-days and the best guys are there in the team. So it has nothing to do with age. We have many great examples in the recent past,” he pointed out.

In a Test match against England in Perth in 2006, Gilchrist blazed away to a 57-ball century, narrowly missing the world record of Sir Vivian Richards of the West Indies, who had scored a 56-ball hundred. During the course of that innings, was he aware of the record?

“Not really. But at the end of it, I still feel that Viv deserves to keep the record, for he was the genuine master-blaster,” said the modest Australian, who has the distinction of hitting 100 sixes in Tests and 149 sixes in one-day internationals.

There are many who still believe that Gilchrist could have continued playing at least in the one-dayers. But he disagrees. “I have no regrets for my decision to quit. I had been mulling over it for two months before I made the announcement. And when I dropped VVS (Laxman) in a Test match, I started thinking seriously about saying good-bye. Somehow, I felt that my body was not willing to take it anymore and it was me and no one else who was responsible for the decision,” Gilchrist explained.

The former Australian stumper admitted that the recent India-Australia series was one of the most demanding assignments for him. But he also pointed out that the very high standard of cricket played by both sides was, unfortunately, not acknowledged properly by the media. “Especially the Sydney Test which we won was an amazing match for many reasons,” Gilchrist added.

According to the great entertainer from Down Under too much was read into the so-called strained relationships between the Indian and Australian players. “It is all rubbish. Whatever has happened is history and the players are themselves looking to forge ahead and the IPL provides a wonderful opportunity for us,” he explained.

As for the Indian team’s new-found aggression, Gilchrist said that the Indian players were always trying to be tough over the last few years. “In the recent series, it was more from the heart. Ganguly instilled a lot of self-belief in the team during his stint as captain. Since then this Indian team has slowly been developing into an aggressive outfit,” he said.

On the possibility of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy Test series attaining the importance of the Ashes, Gilchrist said that when Australia and India played they were the two best teams and naturally all the focus was on them. “Well, there is always a great desire to keep winning against India and when we won our first series here (in India) in 2004 under my captaincy it was a great feeling. It is a different issue that next year we lost the Ashes series in England after a gap of 18 years,” he recalled.

What excites him the most about Indian cricket?

“The most fascinating aspect of Indian cricket is the passion with which it is played and watched by millions. And I hope to entertain them in the IPL,” he said before signing off.