Down Under View November 13, 2003

Gilchrist: the best of the best

In our weekly Down Under View, Lynn McConnell gives his reasons why Adam Gilchrist why he thinks is the best wicketkeeper-batsman there has ever been

Every Thursday, Wisden Cricinfo's writers in Australia and New Zealand supply the Antipodean view on cricket. Here Lynn McConnell argues that Adam Gilchrist is the best batsman-wicketkeeper there has ever been

Adam Gilchrist: 'you couldn't ask for anything more'

India have been the latest opponents to find out - although they probably already knew it given the 1038 runs they have conceded to him in 25 one-day internationals - that they are in the presence of the most genuine cricket talent when playing against Adam Gilchrist.

It can now be said that he is the finest batsman-wicketkeeper to have graced the game. A big call? Perhaps, but the facts speak for themselves.

There may have been more graceful executioners behind the stumps, there may have been more agile performers, although it is hard to see how, and there may have been better wicketkeepers to spinners. However, the fact of the matter is that there has not been such a complete package to equal the qualities which Gilchrist brings to the game.

Given the reputation of Australian wicketkeepers, he has had some outstanding performers to emulate. Most recently the man he replaced, Ian Healy, and before that Rod Marsh - a player just as competitive but without the Gilchrist flourishes. You can go down through the list of time and talk of players like Wally Grout, Barry Jarman, Brian Taber and Bert Oldfield - and Don Tallon, whom Don Bradman included in his Best-Ever XI - but in the long run, Gilchrist heads them all.

It is the same on the world stage. Alec Stewart may rank behind Healy and Marsh as the third-most successful keeper in terms of dismissals, but he isn't even in the hunt. Jeffrey Dujon and Deryck Murray from West Indies, Alan Knott and Godfrey Evans from England, Wasim Bari, Rashid Latif and Moin Khan of Pakistan, Adam Parore and Ian Smith of New Zealand, Syed Kirmani and Kiran More of India, Mark Boucher, John Waite and Dave Richardson of South Africa, and Andy Flower of Zimbabwe are all pale in comparison.

The only player who gets anywhere near Gilchrist's Test batting average of 60.25 is Flower, with 51.54. Among the top ten career dismissals, Gilchrist is at the moment in tenth place, despite having played in only 47 matches.

Gilchrist has already scored nine Test centuries - the only wicketkeepers to have scored more are Stewart (15) and Flower (12). Stewart scored many of his when not combining the two roles, and because of the fragile nature of the Zimbabwe side, Flower had many opportunities. Gilchrist has had to make his mark batting at No. 6 or 7 in a strong Australian line-up. The facts don't lie - Gilchrist is the greatest.

And that's even before adding the one-day factor into the equation. He's already on top of the poll there with 65 dismissals, with only Flower ahead of him in runs scored.

What adds to Gilchrist's portfolio is that he would make the side as a batsman alone. Few players are capable of dismembering an opposition attack in the manner that he can. He held the world record for the fastest Test double-century, until it was beaten by Nathan Astle's extraordinary innings for New Zealand against England at Christchurch last year.

But it is Gilchrist's consistency which is his finest asset. Day in, day out, no-one can ever discount him, and that is the mark of a great player. The fact he walked against Sri Lanka in the World Cup doesn't really come into the picture - if he hadn't, he would still have been an outstanding player. To the cricket purist, however, that is just another factor in his appeal: here is someone in touch with the game and its spirit.

Such is the quality of Gilchrist's play that we can only wonder what changes will have been wrought in the record books by the time he has finished. One thing is for certain: his future will never be as anonymous as his most recent Test century, scored in Matthew Hayden's formidable shadow against Zimbabwe last month at Perth.

In the meantime, fans around the world might as well strap themselves in and enjoy the ride. With Gilchrist at the helm there will never be a dull moment. Achiever, entertainer, standard-setter ... you couldn't ask for anything more.

Lynn McConnell is New Zealand editor of Wisden Cricinfo.