'He was the one guy that went out and changed the wicketkeeping mould for all of us'

ESPN Cricinfo

ESPN Cricinfo

Author 2019-11-05 09:51:39

Twenty years ago, Adam Gilchrist made his Test debut at the Gabba and redefined the role of the wicketkeeper-batsman forever. Kumar Sangakkara, Brad Haddin, Alec Stewart and Alex Carey talk about the influence Gilchrist had on them, and his legacy in the game.

Kumar Sangakkara
Not just me, he influenced selectors as well to look at wicketkeeping from a different perspective completely - to understand that a wicketkeeper has to be highly skilled, but at the same time, if he can't contribute with the bat, then picking him becomes quite difficult. So he challenged wicketkeepers to improve their batting, to understand how to bat with the tail.

He defined a role for a batsman-wicketkeeper or a wicketkeeper-batsman, whichever way you describe it. You become a true allrounder: you have exceptional skills both with the gloves and with the bat.

The unique thing about his batting was just that kind of abandon and freedom he played with. He assessed situations really well. He was a very high-quality batsman in terms of adapting to pace and spin and different types of wickets. Freddie Flintoff had him in trouble a few times coming around the wicket and making him edge the ball to the slips, but apart from that, he really decimated bowling attacks.

He was never afraid of getting out: it was a case of imposing himself and taking the game away from the opposition. Many times he walked into tough situations and made a huge impact, to take Australia into a winning position.

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And his glovework, keeping to Shane Warne, Stuart MacGill, was absolutely exceptional.

A lot of specialist wicketkeepers won't like Adam much because he sounded the death knell for that specialist's role. But people like us, MS Dhoni, would be grateful for that change of mindset he influenced.

He was awesome to watch. He was a wonderful cricketer and a wonderful ambassador for the game.

Brad Haddin
He definitely changed the role of the wicketkeeper-batsman. Before Gilly came along, the batting was a bonus. But the way he revolutionised the role, you had to become an allrounder and contribute more with the bat.

Everyone knew the talent he had for a long time; he had played a lot of one-day cricket before he got the chance to play Tests, and it was just refreshing to see how he came straight in and put his mark on the game and didn't take a backward step.

I was pretty content with who I was, and if I had tried to be an Adam Gilchrist, I would have ended up in a quiet corner of the room. I'd seen it happen a lot with people trying to follow Shane Warne. But these guys were greats of the game, so it was really important for me that I took Gilly out of the equation and just tried to be the best cricketer I could.

"Whether he went in at 180 for 5 or 350 for 5, he would play the situation, and that is cricket intelligence"

Alec Stewart

Adam can come up in a conversation over a couple of beers as one of the greatest to ever play the game. Following him, you just had to be really conscious that you were comfortable being who you were and not try to do things that others tried to do. You had to make sure you brought to the table what you were strong with.

One thing for a keeper is understanding what your role is, and that's to change the momentum in games and get through some tough situations. Adam was one out of the hat: he could do things that no one else could. So you've just got to be sure you understand the role. Yes, you have to contribute with the bat these days - we'd all love to contribute Adam's way.

Alec Stewart
Before Gilly arrived, in a way, I might have started the batsman-wicketkeeper phenomenon. I was the reserve wicketkeeper to Jack Russell when I started my England career. But I was in the team primarily as an opening batsman. Andy Flower and Kumar Sangakkara did similar roles. We were all specialist batsmen, playing in the top six in the batting order and doubling up as keeper in the team.

But Gilly took it to another level because of how he played. He had taken the place of Ian Healy in Australia, the best wicketkeeper I had played against. So Gilly came in as a lesser-quality keeper, but as a better, and game-changing, batsman. Even in Australian domestic cricket, he had replaced Tim Zoehrer at Western Australia, where he had moved to further his career. So big gloves and shoes to fill, replacing Zoehrer, and an even bigger place replacing Heals in Australia.

Because of the way he batted, Gilly silenced the majority of his doubters straightaway. He was an unbelievable batsman, probably the best I have seen at No. 7 [in Test cricket] and opening in ODIs. Apart from being a wonderful timer, his shot selection and the ability to put the bowlers on the back foot so quickly was, in my opinion, his biggest strength. He imposed himself straightaway.

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Whether he went in at 180 for 5 or 350 for 5, he would play the situation, and that is cricket intelligence. But he would also turn the scoreboard around more times than not in the space of a session. One-eighty for 5, you would think could you roll the side for 280, but he would get them to 350-400 because of the quality of the player he was.

Coming to his wicketkeeping, you wouldn't put him in the Ian Healy class. I am not being rude here, and I hope Gilly would agree with me. Having said that, Gilly was a very, very efficient wicketkeeper. Put that alongside his world-class batting and you had a game-changing allrounder.

Although a few of us I mentioned earlier had already influenced the selection of wicketkeepers with our batting, the arrival of Gilly and his instant success meant that the policy of selecting just the best gloveman regardless of him offering next to nothing with the bat was over. The wicketkeeper now has to do both to the right standards in international cricket, and that is thanks to Gilly. I am a massive fan of his and what he has done for the game of cricket and how he played.

Alex Carey
Gilly was always my hero growing up. I was a wicketkeeper and a left-hand batter all through my junior ranks. I couldn't wait to get the Greg Chappell cricket catalogue and buy Gilly's gloves - the orange ones that he had.

He was one guy who went out and changed the wicketkeeping mould for a lot of us, and he's just one of those exciting players that everyone loved watching. There were a few favourite innings. I still go back to watch the Ashes Test at the WACA Ground where he was dancing down the wicket and hitting Monty Panesar miles, and scoring that unbelievable hundred. That's one that stays with me.

"The strength of Gilly is to make sure that everything off the field is going well and you can go out and play with a big smile on your face"

Alex Carey

I love how he took the game on, batting at No. 7. As a wicketkeeper our job hopefully is to come in and do some damage at the back end of an innings. In the shorter format he was pretty aggressive at the top. There were lots of exciting packages to watch from Gilchrist, along with his keeping too: some of those hangers he takes, the old throw-the-ball-up-with-the-left-hand, legs in the air - he was amazing.

I'm fortunate enough to put on the green and gold and play some Big Bash and to have formed a relationship with Adam Gilchrist. Whenever I see a message from him, it always makes me pretty excited. It probably started with him as a commentator and myself getting into the Strikers team. The funny thing with Gilly and I is, we don't really talk a lot about cricket when we catch up, which I think is a good thing as well. We have a great relationship away from the game, talking about footy, talking about family, rather than the skill sets on the field.

There are times when I might need some advice from him, and he's more than willing to do that. We had a quick catch-up in Manchester going back 12 months, which was fantastic. I think the strength of Gilly is to make sure that everything off the field is going well and you can go out and play with a big smile on your face.

A bit of advice he gave me is making sure that every time I go out and play, it's [about keeping in mind] what the team needs from me to help win a game of cricket. That's something that has stuck with me through all three formats.

As told to Nagraj Gollapudi, Andrew McGlashan and Daniel Brettig

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