Changing Times

Adam Gilchrist was the third of Australia’s modern greats to announce his retirement, although, like Warne and McGrath, he went on playing in the Indian Premier League.  At the time of writing, in May 2011, he is still doing so, while Warne has just retired for good.

Nothing more need be said of him than that he was the greatest wicket-keeper batsman the game has ever seen.

This morning I was going to write about a few subjects:  events in Adelaide, the changes in England’s selection panel, India’s top-order problems.  But all those can wait; the Adelaide game is still taking shape after three days and the other two topics will be around until the cows come home.  There’s only one story in town this unusually sunny January Saturday morning:  the retirement of Adam Gilchrist, announced just a couple of hours ago.

With the probable exception of Warne, Gilchrist changed the game – well, the role of the wicket-keeper/batsman in it, to be precise – more than any of Australia’s other recent greats.  And he did it with a good-natured, smiling effervesence that belied a typically Australian toughness and a rare, rare, talent.

As Peter English wrote on Cricinfo after Gilchrist had secured the dismissals record a couple of days ago, the cracks, both with bat and gloves, have been starting to show for a while now and, for Gilchrist, there was nowhere to go except down, with only the relatively unimportant and ever more commonplace milestone of a hundred Tests on the horizon.  As it is he’ll retire with 96, played entirely consecutively, which constitutes a pretty good career.

One personal memory sees Gilchrist keeping on the Taunton square to a practising bowler as the shadows lengthened after a day’s play.  I’m not sure who the bowler was but something in my mind says Colin Miller, which would place the time as 2001.  By this stage Gilchrist was a fixture in the Test side but he worked long into the dusk for his bowler, taking and returning, providing encouragement, chatting and laughing with interested observers (of whom I was one).  Before that I knew he was a great cricketer; after that I respected him like no other Australian player of his generation.

The times continue to change for Australia.  But for now this can be ignored.  When Gichrist walks to the wicket tomorrow the Adelaide Oval will go nuts.  And rightly so.

Different Shades of Green, 26th January 2008

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