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Jason Gillespie talks about the awe he felt in his early days in the Australian dressing room, his double-hundred, and breaking his leg in Kandy
Interview by Scott Oliver
May 15, 2014
It certainly took a while for me to feel like I belonged or was at home in the Australia side. As a youngster you just appreciate the opportunity and want to perform. You certainly never think the spot's your own. I never felt that. I felt more settled once I got into it, though, but it wasn't until the early 2000s, when I got through 100 Test wickets, that I started to think, "You know what, I belong here. I can make myself a pretty good career here." I don't think you should ever feel it's your right to be selected. It's an absolute privilege to be representing your country and I used to treat that as such.
I had absolute belief that I'd play for Australia when I was very young. I just had this absolute desire and nothing else mattered to me. I was telling anyone that wanted to listen that I'd play for Australia. You back that belief up with desire and effort, it goes a long way. I'm living proof of that.
Breaking my leg in Kandy was a pretty devastating time. I was seriously questioning whether I would ever come back from it. But I was determined I was going to have a significant Test career. I wanted to prove - to myself more than anyone else - that I was a Test cricketer of note. I didn't want to just play ten, 15 Test matches and be done with it.
Sheffield Shield was very strong in the 1990s and there were a number of reasons for that. I think our 2nd XI cricket was very strong in Australia. Back when I first started, playing 2nd XI cricket was a real goal. You are in the second-best side of your state. And that was a real honour.
Darren Lehmann was one of the first blokes to come up to me in the South Australian dressing room and introduce himself and take me under his wing a little bit. We became good mates.
I think the first thing I noticed when I first got into the Australian side - and when I was called up for the 1996 World Cup squad I'd never met any of these players - was all these legends, Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh, Mark Taylor, Warnie, everyone was on a nickname basis. I saw these guys on pedestals, growing up watching and idolising them. And here I was, a peer, talking to them as friends on a nickname basis. I suppose that took me a little bit by surprise.
There was certainly no complacency in Kolkata on our part. On reflection, you could argue that we shouldn't have enforced the follow-on. I'm not sure what the split in the dressing room was, but a few of the lads would have thought that was the best option. But if you look at the history of the game, the chances of winning after being made to follow-on are pretty remote. It was just very special batting. And, again, it wasn't through lack of effort. We gave it our all. They were just too good for us.
Any bowlers I didn't enjoy facing? Pretty much any genuine quick.
Getting 200 has given me a great after-dinner story for a long time. It was unexpected; I'd never got a hundred in any form of cricket before, so to double it up was pretty special, and pretty surreal, to be honest. I didn't get the nervous 90s, because I'd never been there before.
I actually thought I had Murali's measure at one stage. I kind of worked out that if he bowled over the wicket and pitched the ball three feet outside off stump, chances are it was going to spin back to me, and if he pitched it on the stumps, chances are it was going to be a doosra or a straight one. So I kinda had a plan. And I was going okay until one day he came around the wicket and was pitching everything in line with the stumps. I had no way of picking him then, so I was absolutely stuffed.
Cricket was an obsession, yeah. I remember watching it on TV from six or seven years old - the one-dayers, Australia in the gold. I became absolutely hooked.
|"I believe it's completely wrong that the stump mics should be loud enough to hear the exchange between a batsman and bowler. If it was entertainment, like WWE wrestling, then okay, but this is a hard-nosed professional sport"|
I performed well for Adelaide Cricket Club, got in the A grade and was picked for the South Australia Under-19 team but didn't get originally selected for the Australia U-19 team. Then someone pulled out injured and they invited me to go to India with the U-19s. And from that I got the opportunity to go to the Australian Cricket Academy, based in my home town.
I idolised anyone who played for Australia, but the earliest "hero" would be Dennis Lillee, then Craig McDermott and Merv Hughes as a teenager. And Rodney Hogg. Basically any Australian quick.
We took different plans into that series in 2004. We tended to attack the stumps more and back our fitness ahead of India's. That was the crux of our bowling plan, you know. If they miss, we hit. We had a sweeper over on the leg side. Make them run singles and run twos all the time instead of getting easy fours.
Up until the '05 Ashes I felt that Marcus Trescothick didn't enjoy facing me. I got him out a few times. He certainly wasn't a bunny but I always felt that, in the back of his mind, he wasn't as comfortable facing me as some of our other bowlers for one reason or another.
It's hard to say who was the best captain. They all brought their own way of dealing with things. I enjoyed a really good run with Steve Waugh. He used to back me to the hilt. Mark Taylor, early in my career, gave me a lot of confidence, especially when I'd been in and out with injury. And Ricky was a great support as well. If you're pressing me to pick the best one, then maybe looking through rose-coloured glasses because I was younger… but tactically it's probably Mark Taylor.
I'm a firm believer that players should be allowed to say pretty much what they want to say on the field without being scrutinised by the media or the public. What goes on on the field stays on the field. That's one of my bugbears. I believe it's completely wrong that the stump mics should be loud enough to hear the exchange between a batsman and bowler. If it was entertainment, like WWE wrestling, then okay, but this is a hard-nosed professional sport.
The slips cordon - Healy, the Waughs, Warnie - certainly picked their targets. I wouldn't say there was any nastiness out there, though. I can't tell you 100% for sure, because I was too busy walking back to my mark or bowling balls, so I didn't hear everything that was going on.
Shane Warne had shocking taste in music.
Did it annoy us losing dead rubbers? You spend so much energy trying to win a Test series - I don't know, subconsciously do you take your foot off the gas? You could argue that, I guess, but I personally don't believe we did.
I have vague memories of being on the helicopter [after the Kandy accident]. I was in a bit of pain. Sanath Jayasuriya had a friend in the army and he arranged for the helicopter to come and transfer me to hospital in Colombo. So I'll always be very thankful to Sanath for that.
Dad got a job in Adelaide when I was ten. Mum and Dad were ringing around, trying to find a club for me to play for. I got rejected by a couple of clubs. I was only ten years, but Adelaide Cricket Club agreed to take me on. I was playing in the mornings for my primary school and in the afternoon for my club, sometimes on a Sunday. So you get up to three games on a weekend. It was fantastic.
I never felt any pressure to support the Aboriginal cause. I'm very proud of who I am but I never saw myself as a role model for anyone. If I was seen that way, then I thought the best thing to do was just show pride, passion and effort in what I was doing: playing cricket.
The 2003 World Cup was a really tough one to take. I do have a World Cup ring from Cricket Australia as part of the squad, but I had to fly home with an injury.
The match in Mumbai  - the wicket we played on was not up to Test standard. With all due respect to Michael Clarke, a decent enough left-arm spinner, but for him to get 6 for 9 summed up the surface we played on. He was quite sheepish about it, actually, pretty humble about it. I remember bowling a slower ball to Sachin Tendulkar, a good-length delivery that he should have played off the front foot just above knee height, and it hit him on the shoulder, near the throat.
The best player I bowled at? Brian Lara. Lara's innings in Barbados  was just about the best I've ever seen.
Winning 3-0 in Sri Lanka was incredibly special.
I always enjoyed bowling at Adelaide Oval. It's not seen as a bowler's wicket but it was my home ground. I suppose I grew up and learned how to bowl there. I knew my line and my lengths to put batsmen under pressure there. I always felt that no wicket was a flat wicket. You'd always get something out of it if you put the effort in.
We were living in Sydney and we used to go on family holidays down the south coast, rent a house right on the beach, and if there was a game on I wouldn't leave the house. Mum, Dad and brother would go down to the beach, and I'd spend the whole day watching the TV.
I don't mean this to sound crass but I always saw myself first and foremost as a Test cricketer. No disrespect to one-day cricket or T20 cricket, but the pinnacle for me was always Test cricket, although it was a bitter pill to swallow to be injured for that  World Cup.
India 2004 was probably my pinnacle with the ball. But I batted a long time with Damien Martyn to save a Test match in Chennai, which got rained out on the last day. The chances are we were going to lose that Test. For me to be in a partnership and survive as long as I did - I only made 20-odd but it was an important knock in the context of the series, so I was happy to contribute in that way.
One victory song that sticks in my mind was my last Test match. I was lucky enough to get a double-hundred and we won the series 2-0. Adam Gilchrist allowed me the great honour of leading the team song. We were on top of the hotel in Chittagong. I knew deep down that it was my final time as an Australian cricketer. Everyone says they have a moment, or whatever, and I sensed - you know, I've never spoken about it with my great mate Gilly, but I sensed that he knew it as well. It's one of those things in sport and in life; you just know. So I sung that loud, I sung that proud. All your team-mates there - it was a wonderful way to finish a cricket career.
Scott Oliver tweets hereFeeds: Scott Oliver
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