Deccan Chargers v Delhi Daredevils, IPL semi-final, Centurion May 2009

No holds barred

To reduce an Adam Gilchrist knock to statistics is a crime but one number today tells a story: There were five dot balls in his 85.

It was once said of Brian Lara's batting that the opposing captain's only hope was to place his fielders in the gaps. Roughly the same thought would have gone through Virender Sehwag's mind today as he watched his bowlers being taken apart, brilliantly and brutally, by Adam Gilchrist . To reduce a Gilchrist knock to statistics is a crime but one number today tells a story: There were five dot balls in his 85. Just five. Within 17 balls, by when he had reached his fifty, he had killed the game and knocked out Delhi, the strongest team in the competition.

Gilchrist in full flow has to be one of the most pleasing sights in cricket. There is not a single ugly shot; the smooth arc of the bat swing and the clean hitting is what you take away. Through his career he has done the improbable - made happy both the purists and those who seek instant gratification.

Tonight, he exhibited his best, which was lapped up by a strong Centurion crowd. The white ball kept flying everywhere but the shot of the day was the one that never left the ground. He leaned forward to time a full length delivery from Ashish Nehra and it raced away through wide mid-off. Not that any of the other shots, barring a drag-pull, were anything but gorgeous.

The thing that most catches the eye is his extension of the arms. Where the traditional batsmen stop their arm-swing, Gilchrist's arms go cleanly through the line of the ball. You can only marvel at the absence of any self-doubt that allows him to play like that.

For, rest assured, any self-doubt in the mind would inevitably raise questions. What if the ball cuts away fractionally? What if it keeps slightly low or higher than what one expected? What if the length is fractionally shorter or fuller than what one thought? What if the pace is slower than anticipated? This is where it gets fascinating. Gilchrist has admitted that he is a very sensitive type prone to doubting himself in life; you can only gasp at the transformation when he has bat in hand. He is not a Keith Miller; with Miller or Sobers or Richards, the batting seemed a logical extension of their personality. Not so with Gilchrist. Perhaps it's the release from himself that he seeks while at the crease.

Gilchrist himself put it eloquently after the game. "All I have asked my team in the tournament is to make whatever is happening in that moment [while you are in middle] the most important moment in your life. The next delivery is the most important thing in your life because there is nothing else going around at that moment."

Nothing else but the sound of nerves shredding among the Delhi bowlers as they ran in. Yet you couldn't blame them. There weren't too many bad balls in the conventional sense; just a couple of full tosses, nothing wide or too short or too full. Even the two full tosses came at the free hits. The pressure to bowl the yorker or the unhittable ball must have eventually strangled them.

Only high-quality spin could have saved the day, as it did the other when Ramesh Powar bowled a magical ball to dismiss Gilchrist. Pace plays to his strength; to force the error, you have to make the adrenalin rush to his head by slowing it up and making him go after it. Delhi, though, didn't dare use Amit Mishra during the Powerplays. It was their only chance but Sehwag didn't want to take that risk. Perhaps it's a trick he missed; there's no guarantee it would have been effective - he could have disappeared for plenty - but given the seamers were so shell-shocked they didn't try a single slower one, that's the only thing he could have done.

Spare a thought, though, for Delhi. They were the strongest team in the competition, comfortably ahead in the league table and winning nearly everything in sight, but came undone in the semi-final. Gautam Gambhir and David Warner couldn't deliver when it mattered; nor could their quality seamers produce the one special ball that could have made the difference. They couldn't raise their game under pressure.

Their innings started off like Sri Lanka's game against India in the 1996 World Cup semi-final. Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana fell as soon as they arrived at the crease then; today Gambhir and Warner went early. Aravinda de Silva played one of the best innings in World Cup history to turn things around for them, then. Sehwag looked like he was on his way to reprise that knock but couldn't survive the strategy break. That killed the momentum and the innings, despite Tillekaratne Dilshan's efforts, fell short of a matchwinning total.

But when Gilchrist is such a mood, who can say what is a match-winning total? There is no shame in losing to a dazzling act like this. It doesn't happen every day. Or could it? We have to wait for the final to find out whether Gilchrist has more fuel left in his tank.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • David on May 23, 2009, 14:12 GMT

    I felt sorry for the Deccan cheerleaders ... they must have been exhausted!

  • Vishnu on May 23, 2009, 13:45 GMT

    Gilly: Scores when it matters. Sachin: Scores when it doesnt.

    Who cares about records?

  • Favaz on May 23, 2009, 9:38 GMT

    Up she goes................ over and on to scorebord for six! Great shot by Gilli one of de greatest in this game of cricket!

    Greats raises to the ocassion! No Indian wants to remember the Innings he played against India in 2003 WC final & knock against Srilanka in WC fianl 2007 was simply awesome! Yet another big occasion the real hero proves himself 2 b a super hero!

  • Pramod on May 23, 2009, 8:10 GMT

    What an innigs Gilly played. As a Deccan fan, I was absolutely excited to watch this innings.

    If not anything else, IPL 2009 has effectively killed a myth. Extremely interesting that supposedly a young man's tournament has retired and older players making not only impact, but a decisive impact. All the great older players like Sachin, Jayasurya, Dravid, Kallis, Boucher, Murali and Warne made great impact. Jumbo, Gilly and Hayden were outstanding through out the tournament. This only shows that no matter what form of cricket you are playing, great players always adapt and perform.

    I think this is where Shewag misread. I am not sure if bringing in Mcgrath in semi finals would have helped as he did not play any match from the past 12 months, but I have no doubt in my mind that he would have been better than Nannes if played earlier.

    As an Indian fan, I would like to see some of the Indian players making an impact for Deccan in the finals.

  • Venkat on May 23, 2009, 7:51 GMT

    I am sorry for Nannes (not for DD)...he was unplayable the whole of the tournament...too sad to see his face after the first over...But i hope he makes it to the Ozee team...Viru and DD deserved it for not playing the genius McGrath....

    I would love if Gilly says: THIS ONE IS FOR McGrath

  • Venkat on May 23, 2009, 7:47 GMT are just AMAZING...its like the last ODI - World cup finals...Hat's off....I wouldn't mind my favorite team ( CSK) loosing to you (but not DC.. ;-)

    Sriram Veera - You are amazing too...I just started reading your articles...very interesting point of views and nice style of of true journalists in the sports arena....Thanks a lot for this: Gilchrist himself put it eloquently after the game. "All I have asked my team in the tournament is to make whatever is happening in that moment [while you are in middle] the most important moment in your life. The next delivery is the most important thing in your life because there is nothing else going around at that moment."

  • James on May 23, 2009, 7:36 GMT

    I cannot comprehend why we haven't tried to convince Gilly and Haydos to play in the twenty20 world cup. surely with them in the team and maybe even warnie, (he would be highly unlikely) we would easily win the competition.

  • sunil on May 23, 2009, 7:24 GMT

    really its greatest innings in IPL2 no doubt about it...clean hit.. bowlers had no idea wher to bowl.. He played good innings in 99, 03 and 07 world cup finals. I could recall 07 world cup against srilanka with swash ball.. played a great innings.... b4 this match i was thinking if this guy plays then there is no doubt Deccans can reach finals easily.... one more innings like this from gilly in finals... then Deccans will be the IPL2 champs... thak god i am the witness of all such gr8 innings

  • Umair on May 23, 2009, 7:05 GMT

    I was not watching IPL due to lake of interest in the event. I knew that this is semi final b/w Gilli and Dehli and I'm a big fan of Gilli, he is big match player and he proved again. That was such a great inning from a great player. Well done Gilli..

  • Rajasundram on May 23, 2009, 6:47 GMT

    Realty_truth has hit the nail on the head.

    If Sehwag and the Delhi think-tank allowed a player like McGrath to warm the benches for 14 matches, they must all be replaced for the next season. Even after seeing Hayden, Gilchrist, Warne perform, not even giving Glenn a game must be the biggest blunder of IPL 2009.

    I am not saying that Glenn would have ripped through sides because one can never say anything in cricket - but he should have been given a couple of games to prove his worth.

    If he decides not to come back after this humiliation of one of the great bowlers that the game has seen I would not be surprised.

    Siva from Singapore

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