Greatest ever wicketkeeper-batsman?
BATTING (World Cups 1999-2007)
WICKETKEEPING (World Cups 1999-2007)
Adam Gilchrist’s belligerence with the willow catapulted him to the opening slot in One-day Internationals. Coupled with his prowess with the gauntlets, the southpaw became a key element in the success of Australian teams for a decade. For an aggressive batsman, he was amazingly consistent batting down the order in Test matches. Considering that he kept wickets brilliantly to superlative pacemen and top-class leg-spinners, Gilchrist must arguably be the best wicketkeeper-batsman the game has ever seen. It is players like him that contribute to the making of great teams.
The 1999 World Cup was not particularly distinguished for him personally, but by his own lofty standards. He started badly, as did most openers in this event, and brought up his first fifty only in the fourth fixture. He slammed the hapless Bangladesh bowlers for 63 off a mere 39 balls, blitzing a dozen boundaries. Having already lost to New Zealand and Pakistan, it was absolutely essential for Australia to boost their run-rate. Gilchrist put up an opening stand of 98 off just 71 deliveries with Mark Waugh. That set the tone for later batsmen, Tom Moody hitting what was then the fastest World Cup half-century off 28 balls.
Gilchrist was unusually sedate as India were trounced in the first super-six match. He scored 31 off 52 balls with just one boundary as Mark Waugh outpaced him in a partnership of 97. Gilchrist emulated Greg Dyer’s 1987 feat of snapping up four catches, the only Australian wicketkeepers to do so in the World Cup at that point. It was only in the lop-sided final that Gilchrist hit up his second half-century. Set a meagre target of 133 by Pakistan, he raised 75 with Mark Waugh in 10.1 overs. Gilchrist brought up his fifty off 33 balls, fastest in a World Cup final. He was dismissed for 54 off 36 deliveries, having hit 8 fours and a six. Gilchrist’s role in the victorious campaign may not have been stellar, but it was useful under the circumstances.
Australia went from one peak to another after this triumph. Gilchrist also grew in stature, and by the 2003 World Cup, there was none to challenge either. He raised an opening stand of 100 with Matthew Hayden against India, scoring 48 off 61 balls with 6 boundaries. Facing a formidable Zimbabwean score of 246, Gilchrist and Hayden put on 89. Gilchrist went on to score 61 off 64 deliveries, having hit 8 fours.
He then caught a record six Namibian batsmen, the maximum dismissals in a World Cup match. It also equalled his own record for most dismissals in all One-day Internationals, which he shared with Alec Stewart and Ridley Jacobs. In the process he went past Moin Khan’s all-time tally of 257 dismissals in 182 matches. Gilchrist’s new high in One-day Internationals now stood at 259 dismissals, comprising 222 catches and 37 stumpings in 151 matches. In the next match he snapped up three catches as the English gave the champions a scare. He was careering along with the bat before he fell for 22 off 18 balls, having cracked five boundaries.
Gilchrist’s best innings came in the super-six encounter with Sri Lanka. After raising 75 with Hayden, he added 106 with skipper Ricky Ponting. They seized the initiative from the opposition, regaling the Centurion crowd with thunderous shots all over the park. Having smashed his way to fifty off 37 balls, Gilchrist seemed over-anxious to log up his first hundred in the World Cup. Sadly, he ran himself out for 99. He had taken only 88 deliveries to get there, having blasted 14 boundaries and 2 sixes. Gilchrist was at his aggressive best as he waded into the attack of dark horses Kenya. Once again with Hayden and Ponting for company, he slammed 67 in a 43-ball knock that comprised nine hits to the fence and three over it.
Gilchrist was going well in the semi-final when he swept hard at Aravinda de Silva’s second delivery. The ball lobbed up and wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara pouched it. Even as umpire Rudi Koertzen was turning down the vociferous appeal, Gilchrist walked away towards the pavilion. He had scored 22 off 20 balls, having hit 2 fours and a six. He was lauded for his sporting gesture. Off-spinner de Silva hailed him as “a gentleman”. Later, foreign exchange company Travelex – that was already sponsoring Gilchrist – appointed him non-executive director, rewarding him for his integrity.
The final turned into Ponting’s match, but it was Gilchrist and Hayden who gave the initial impetus. They carted the Indian bowling all around before Gilchrist left in the 14th over. The score was already 105 by then. His 57 came off just 48 deliveries and contained 8 fours and a six. He had scored half-centuries in both his World Cup finals, which were hugely skewed in Australia’s favour.
As expected the Scots hardly provided any opposition in their opening encounter in 2007. Just as expected, Gilchrist and Hayden raised 91 in 17 overs first up. Gilchrist fired 7 boundaries in his 55-ball 46. The consequence was a knockout by more than 200 runs. It was not much different with the Dutch. The opening stand this time was 73 in 11.5 overs. Gilchrist got to his fifty off 53 deliveries, and was dismissed for 57, having crashed 11 fours.
Hayden was on fire in their first hot contest of the tournament, blazing to the fastest hundred ever in the World Cup. Gilchrist was not too cold either, and the end result was a 106-run partnership in 14.5 overs. Gilchrist fell for a run-a-ball 42 with 6 hits to the ropes and a six over long-leg off Charl Langeveldt. Australia piled up their highest total in the showpiece event which shut the Proteas out of the match.
In the opening game of the Super-Eights, Australia took on hosts West Indies. Gilchrist, though, departed early even as Hayden hit up 158, which set up a win by over 100 runs. Bangladesh were brushed aside. Gilchrist and Hayden raised the same number of runs as in the match against South Africa - 106, but in an over less - 13.5. This brought up a ten-wicket win. Gilchrist was unbeaten with 59 off 44 deliveries, having hit 8 boundaries and a six. England set up a target of 248. This time the Aussie openers posted 57 in 11 overs before Gilchrist was dismissed for 57. It was another easy triumph by seven wickets.
Ireland were bowled out for 91. Gilchrist’s opening partner on this occasion was Michael Hussey, as the middle-order were short of match practice. There was another half-century stand, 62 in 8.5 overs. Gilchrist departed for 34, having faced 25 balls and crashed 4 boundaries. It was an easy nine-wicket triumph. No team was able to provide serious opposition to the Australians. The next best side Sri Lanka was also bowled out for 226. Hayden was back in tandem with Gilchrist, and now the two hoisted 76 in 11.5 overs. They fell in quick succession, the great wicketkeeper for 30, and the batsmen who followed brought up a seven-wicket victory. As Hayden and the others went about flaying the New Zealand attack, Gilchrist was dismissed cheaply, but the outcome was a massive win by more than 200 runs.
The unbeaten Aussies faced South Africa in the second semi-final. The Proteas were shot out for 149, Gilchrist snapping up four catches off the pacemen. He lost his wicket early again, but that was the only real hiccup in the seven-wicket triumph. So far Gilchrist had performed well, scoring two half-centuries and a few cameos at his usual rapid pace, but had not dazzled.
Then, cometh the hour, cometh the man. Gilchrist made the final his own. Rain ensured that the match would not start before 15 minutes past noon, and curtailed to 38 overs-a-side. The start was deceptive with 2 runs coming off two overs. Then the pyrotechnics began. Gilchrist hit Chaminda Vaas for a four and a six. Still there was no hint of the carnage to follow. The odd boundary was coming, but in the 11th over Gilchrist slammed Dilhara Fernando for 2 fours and a six. He reached his fifty off 43 balls and then launched into Tillakaratne Dilshan, tonking him twice straight and over the ropes. He welcomed Fernando back with a six and a four. On 64 he reached 1000 runs in the World Cup. The belligerent left-hander did not spare the great Muralitharan either, sweeping him deep into the stands. Hayden welcomed Lasith Malinga back with a six over long-off, and two ball later Gilchrist, on 96, banged it to the long-off boundary. The hundred had come off 72 deliveries, the second fifty in 29. He had hit 8 fours and 6 sixes thus far.
To celebrate, Gilchrist crashed two boundaries each off consecutive overs from Vaas and Malinga. Just then Mahela Jayawardene pulled off a brilliant catch in the covers to send back Hayden. The burly opener had scored 38 off 55 deliveries in a partnership of 172. Gilchrist was on 119 off 83 balls. After a quiet period Gilchrist smashed Sanath Jayasuriya for 2 sixes and a four off successive overs. When Fernando returned, Gilchrist finally top-edged one to mid-wicket. He had blitzed 149 off 104 deliveries, regaling the crowd with 13 fours and 8 sixes. It was the highest score in a World Cup final, surpassing Ricky Ponting’s 140 in 2003. It was also the top score by a wicketkeeper, overhauling Rahul Dravid’s 145 in 1999. Australia finished on 281 for four off their allocated 38 overs. Surely, Gilchrist had already won the final off his own bat. He was not finished yet, though. In the third over he snapped up Upul Tharanga off Nathan Bracken to complete 50 dismissals in the premier event. There were two more dismissals to his name before the match ended in a last minute drama marked by umpiring gaffes. No other wicketkeeper has more than 32 dismissals. The Duckworth-Lewis method gave the game to Australia by 53 runs. The final had only one hero.
Gilchrist already has all the wicketkeeping records in the World Cup: most dismissals, most catches, most stumpings jointly with Moin Khan, most catches and dismissals in a match, most dismissals in a World Cup in 2003, also the most dismissals in 2007, highest score by a wicketkeeper, the lone wicketkeeper to score a hundred and effect three dismissals in a match, highest run-aggregate among wicketkeepers, and a brilliant strike-rate of more than 98 runs per 100 balls. It is a long list. Australia won all the World Cups Gilchrist played, and he made a stellar contribution in this singular achievement.
His closest competitor in terms of statistics Mark Boucher (521) has overtaken Gilchrist (416) in terms of dismissals in Test matches but has already played 43 games more. Boucher is 50 dismissals behind Gilchrist (472) in One-day Internationals but has already played five more matches. In terms of batting, Gilchrist scored 5570 runs in 96 Tests at an average of 47.60 and strike-rate of 81.95, while Boucher has 5312 runs in 139 Tests at an average of 30.70 and strike-rate of 50.13. Gilchrist has 17 hundreds to Boucher’s five. In 287 One-day Internationals, Gilchrist scored 9619 runs at an average of 35.89 and strike-rate of 96.94, while Boucher has scored 4664 runs in 292 One-day Internationals at an average of 28.79 and strike-rate of 84.72. Gilchrist has 16 hundreds to Boucher’s solitary ton. Is Adam Gilchrist, then, the Bradman or Sobers among wicket-keepers?
(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email email@example.com).
The Big Book of World Cup Cricket 1975-2011
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