Australia v India, 1st Test, Melbourne, 4th day December 29, 2007

399 and counting for Gilchrist



Adam Gilchrist acknowledges dismissal No 396 © Getty Images
 

Adam Gilchrist's catch to remove Wasim Jaffer off a regulation outside edge from Brett Lee was hard to distinguish from hundreds of similar moments in Gilchrist's career. An understated thumbs-up to the crowd after quick congratulations from his team-mates was the only hint that the wicket meant more to Gilchrist than a routine take.

But the event was significant - it was Gilchrist's 396th Test dismissal and he had just overtaken the Australian record set by his predecessor Ian Healy. He also jumped into second position on the world dismissals tally behind Mark Boucher, who part-way through South Africa's Test against West Indies sits on 406 victims.

"I'm just thrilled, really thrilled to have achieved that," Gilchrist said. "It's not something that I thought would happen. You don't naturally feel that your name sits alongside those names of [Rodney] Marsh and Healy."

Gilchrist's batting has meant his place in the team was never in question but his glovework has occasionally been queried and he said that made the record even more satisfying. But Gilchrist has been one of his own hardest markers and remembers plenty of moments of self-doubt during his 16-year first-class career. He made the tough choice to move from New South Wales to Western Australia in his younger days and at the same time sought the advice of Rod Marsh, wondering if he should give up the gloves and stay in Sydney as a specialist batsman. "He just laughed me off and said 'no way'," Gilchrist said. "Attaining that sort of belief from someone like that is huge."

Even after he dislodged Healy from the national team the self-criticism did not disappear completely and the doomed 2005 Ashes trip was a low point. Gilchrist conceded he "did not keep at all well" through that tour and singled out the Old Trafford Test, where he dropped Michael Vaughan on 41 - he went on to make 166 - and then missed two simple stumping chances off Shane Warne as England built a hefty total for Australia to chase.

Without the likes of Warne and Glenn McGrath weaving their magic against opposition batsmen beating Healy's record may have been a tougher ask for Gilchrist. "To have done it in 93 Tests is testament to the quality of fast bowling and spin bowling," Gilchrist said. "I've had both bases covered there by the world's best."

But as he tries to close the moveable gap between him and Boucher, Gilchrist will need to rely on a fresh list of Australian bowlers. One of those new faces, Mitchell Johnson, added two catches to Gilchrist's tally to leave him with 399 victims as Australia wrapped up the MCG Test against India within four days. Gilchrist said Johnson had clearly benefited from spending nearly two years around the ODI team before making his Test debut.

"You're learning as you go and you're sponging whatever you can off the likes of Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath last year," Gilchrist said. "Every over he bowls he seems like he's maturing."

Johnson finished with match figures of 3 for 46 from 28 overs as he adhered to the team plan of suffocating India's run scoring. Ricky Ponting agreed that Johnson had slotted into the attack nicely and said Shaun Tait faced a tough challenge to force his way into the side.

"Mitchell just keeps improving game by game, and almost over by over," Ponting said. "He was unlucky not to get some breakthroughs in the first innings but he bowled, I think, eight overs for three runs or something, against some very good players. When we had the Indian batsmen under that sort of pressure, I think that just created a lot of apprehension right down their batting order."

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo