Adam Gilchrist must be one of the most fearless cricketers of all time. It is all very well swinging the bat seemingly without a care in the world at the county or state level, it is quite another to do so when a Test match or even a one-day international hangs in the balance. But all games appeared to come the same to Gilchrist. He played in a very strong Australia team, it is true, and one that was often expected to win with something to spare, but Gilchrist played the same for every team he represented, and in all situations.

If he had an advantage, it was in not starting his Test career until a relatively late stage. He was a few days short of his 28th birthday when he finally got his chance, having been kept waiting for his opportunity by Ian Healy, a fine keeper and capable enough batsman to average 27 in Tests. Gilchrist had spent three years in Australia’s one-day team and already made a considerable mark as a
destructive opening batsman with several hundred to his name. He thus arrived conscious that there might be few second chances but also experienced enough to know his own game. In his first match, he scored 81 off 88 balls and in his second retrieved a dire situation in spectacular fashion. Australia, set 369 to win, was apparently heading for defeat to Pakistan in Hobart when Gilchrist joined Justin Langer at 126 for five. Cool as you like, the two of them all but took their side home, Langer falling with five runs still needed. Gilchrist finished unbeaten on 149.

Changed the face of cricket': ICC pays tribute to Hall of Famer Adam  Gilchrist, Ashwin, Vaughan, and Akram chip in | Cricket - Hindustan Times

Quite a few of Gilchrist’s best innings came when Australia was in difficulties rather than when they already had a big score on the board by the time he strolled out at number 7. He said he enjoyed it more when they were in trouble because it gave him something to work with. Not that he could not drive home good positions either; when he went in at Johannesburg in 2002 Australia wasn’t in particular difficulty at 293 for five and he proceeded to smash what was then the fastest Test double century on record.

Australia owed its strength to many things but Gilchrist’s presence was surely a crucial factor in their dominance around the turn of the century. Australia won an astonishing 73 of the 96 Tests he played between 1999 and 2008 and lost only 11. One of those defeats came when Gilchrist himself, acting as stand-in captain for the injured Steve Waugh, made a rather too adventurous declaration at Headingley in 2001. Gilchrist actually finished on the winning side in each of his first 15 Tests. He also played in three winning World Cup finals in 1999, 2003, and 2007, and contributed runs on each occasion, most dazzlingly at Barbados in 2007 when in a game reduced to 38 overs a side he
rattled up 149 off 104 deliveries. Some of his knocks were just unbelievable. The record of this lean, slightly built left-hander was remarkable and leaves him towering above all other international keeper-batsmen. In Tests, he hit 17 hundred and averaged 47.60, highly impressive figures when it is borne in mind what toll hours spent behind the stumps take on mind and body. Most remarkable though was his strike rate of 81.95, which places him second only to Virender Sehwag. He was also the first batsman to hit 100 sixes in Tests. He hit 16 hundred in one-dayers, in which his strike rate of 96.94 again puts him second only to Sehwag among bona fide batsmen. In that format, he stands tenth on the six-hitting list with 149. Needless to say, Gilchrist was a big success when he joined the first wave of players recruited to the Indian Premier League in 2008.

Among Test keepers whose careers are complete, only Andy Flower, who averaged 53.70 but batted in far less explosive fashion, can approach his record. Matt Prior, Les Ames, and Kumar Sangakkara are among the few to even average more than 40.

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It has been the fate of every international keeper since to be measured against him. Every team searches not just for a competent glove-man but a cricketer who can also bat, and score regular hundreds. Gilchrist set the mark, and others strive to meet it as best they can. In fact, several keepers have done very well without quite adhering to the Gilchrist blueprint of reliable runs delivered with all-out aggression – Prior for England, MS Dhoni for India, and Brad Haddin for Australia have all had their moments, while AB de Villiers maintained his batting form amazingly well after temporarily taking over the gloves from Mark Boucher in 2012. But the greats do it time and time again and that is what sets Gilchrist apart.

Gilchrist played his early cricket in New South Wales but with the state already having an established keeper he moved to Western Australia in his early 20s. There, like many batsmen brought up on the hard surfaces in Perth, he developed into a strong cutter and puller of fast bowling. The one team against whom his record was iffy was India, whose spinners Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh managed to keep him largely, if not totally, in check. A few fast bowlers, notably Andrew Flintoff bowling at his absolute best in the 2005 Ashes, managed to deny him the room to free his arms by coming round the wicket at him and firing the ball into his body, but it was a plan requiring perfect execution. In the next Ashes series, in Australia in 2006–07, Gilchrist exacted brutal revenge, splattering the English bowling to all parts of Perth in what was then the second-fastest Test century of all time.

Gilchrist also developed into a considerable keeper. He had to keep to Shane Warne a lot, so in common with a lot of keepers of the modern era, like Healy and Alec Stewart, he improved himself enormously through necessity, exposure, and hard work. Again, he had the advantage of working for the most part with one of the most formidable bowling attacks in history, but in the main, his standards were very high. When he retired, he had a record 416 Test dismissals to his name, a pretty impressive haul in only 96 matches. ‘Gilly’ also played the game in a good spirit and earned a reputation, very unusual in the modern game, of being a ‘walker’.

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