No. 40 September 20, 2009

Gilchrist walks

An Australian giving his wicket away? At the World Cup? Truth is often stranger than fiction

Port Elizabeth, 18 March 2003

Australians only walk when their car has run out of petrol. But in the 2003 World Cup, Adam Gilchrist disproved that theory with an act of sportsmanship that generated almost universal approval along cricket supporters, and general bemusement, not to say disquiet, in the Australian dressing room.

It was the semi-final, and Gilchrist attempted to sweep the offspin of Aravinda de Silva, got a thin edge onto his pad and was caught behind. Rudi Koertzen, the umpire, did not respond to Sri Lanka's appeals but Gilchrist did. He paused, waited for the umpire's decision - or non-decision - then turned and headed for the pavilion.

It was an astonishing moment, partly because it was an Australian, partly because it was such an important game, and partly because the nature of that type of dismissal is rarely clear-cut.

Gilchrist's decision had no bearing on the result - Australia won comfortably - but it seemed to be a symbol of a more enlightened, free-spirited approach in the post-Waugh era. Of course, under duress these good intentions can go out of the window; there weren't many Australians walking in the 2005 Ashes.

There were some dissenting voices about Gilchrist's action. Some, like Angus Fraser, objected to him being canonised simply for not cheating. Others thought that he walked almost by accident; that having played his shot he overbalanced in the direction of the pavilion and simply carried on going. Both are harsh judgments. It was a remarkable occurrence, and one that should be held as an example to all cricketers.

John Stern is editor of the Wisden Cricketer. This article was first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine

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