If you didn’t already know, Adam Gilchrist has retired from international cricket. As an England fan, I should feel glad that someone who fired the second fastest century in Adelaide in the 2006 Ashes that led to the embarrassment of a 5-0 whitewash, and delivered an Ashes debut to savour with the bat at Edgbaston in 2002, has now decided to spend more time with his family.
However, I’m quite the opposite. Cricket has lost a player that brought equal amounts of dread and exhilaration for the opposing fan, as well as something that’s arguably even rarer — a modest Australian cricketer.
What first struck me when Gilchrist announced his retirement was the lack of discussion over his wicket-keeping, both pre and on the announcement of his retirement. Apparently the dropped catch off VVS Laxman convinced Gilchrist that it was now time to leave the game, believing that he now lacked the speed and concentration he once had.
But this lack of discussion is perhaps because as a keeper, he was consistent to the point where discussion only ever occurred when he broke a keeping record. Many will argue that he missed too many stumpings and catches, but this lack of discussion is arguably as loud as any round of applause. Only when keepers drop catches or consistently under perform are they often talked about; as Matt Prior, Geraint Jones and MS Dhoni can testify. He wasn’t as prolific or as acrobatic as Rodney Marsh, but he was just as good.
Yet while Marsh was instrumental in changing the ideas of keeping, from giving himself more space to throw himself about to changing the positions of his slips, Gilchrist was the Rodney Marsh of batting. The first and still only batsman to hit 100 sixes in Test cricket, he could turn a match in the space of an over; his 24 off a single Matthew Hoggard over in the ’06 Ashes coming to mind.
In his post-match presentation speech at the end of what turned out to be a tame fourth Test draw in Adelaide, Ricky Ponting, considered to be incessantly driven by the need to win and nothing else, was probably as emotional and as sentimental as you’ll ever see him when he commented on Gilchrist’s retirement and the gradual succession of new guys over the old — I even managed a little “awww.” It was incredibly sobering to hear.
But he’s right; before he knows it, he’ll probably be joining Warne and McGrath in the Indian Cricket League. After the departures of Langer, Warne and McGrath, Gilchrist’s retirement has finally brought the realisation that Australian cricket really is entering an uncertain, yet fresh and deeply intriguing phase.