Adam Craig Gilchrist
November 14, 1971, Bellingen, New South Wales
Left hand bat
Right arm offbreak
Going in first or seventh, wearing whites or coloureds, Adam Gilchrist was the symbolic heart of Australia's steamrolling agenda and the most exhilarating cricketer of the modern age. He was simultaneously a cheerful throwback to more innocent times, a flap-eared country boy who walked when given not out in a World Cup semi-final, and swatted his second ball for six while sitting on a Test pair. "Just hit the ball," is how he once described his philosophy on batting, and he seldom strayed from it. Employing a high-on-the-handle grip, he poked good balls into gaps and throttled most others, invariably with head straight, wrists soft and balance sublime. Only at the death did he jettison the textbook, whirling his bat like a hammer-thrower, caring only for the scoreboard and never his average. Still he managed to score at a tempo - 81 per 100 balls in Tests, 96 in one-dayers - that made Viv Richards and Gilbert Jessop look like stick-in-the-muds.
When he signed a record A$2m sponsorship deal with Puma in 2004, few people questioned his value for money. Indeed it was arguably Gilchrist's belated Test arrival that turned the Australian XI from powerful to overpowering. He bludgeoned 81 on debut, pouched five catches and a stumping, and barely paused for breath until stepping down in 2008. Only in the closing stages of an untouchable career did his appetite slow - he was troubled by Andrew Flintoff's around-the-wicket angle during 2005 and found the flaw difficult to overcome - and his match-turning 144 against Bangladesh in April 2006 was his first century in 16 Tests.
The 2006-07 Ashes series was literally hit and miss, with three single-figure scores, two fifties and his most brutal hundred. At home his one-day form was subdued, but the game's biggest competition - and it's most important match - brought out Gilchrist's highest standards. He stole the World Cup final from Sri Lanka with 149 off 104 balls, slamming 13 fours and eight sixes, and added to his 54 and 57 from his previous two global triumphs. Using a tip from his batting coach Bob Meuleman, he put a squash ball in his glove to allow him to hit straighter - the advice should have been patented instantly.
In Tests, three Gilchrist innings rank among the most amazing by Australians: his death-defying unbeaten 149 against Pakistan at Hobart when all seemed lost, his savage and emotional 204 not out against South Africa at Johannesburg, and his 57-delivery Ashes century at Perth when he missed equalling Richards' world mark by a ball. In one-dayers, his 172 is the third-highest score by an Australian and his 472 dismissals might take decades to top.
As Australia's 41st Test captain he found the extra burden tiring, and was happy for Ricky Ponting to step in once Steve Waugh retired. But as Ponting's fill-in he crossed the final frontier, leading Australia to their first series win in India for 35 years in 2004-05. As a wicketkeeper he lacked Rod Marsh's acrobatics and Ian Healy's finesse, and he probably peaked at 30 in 2002. But if he clutched few screamers he dropped even fewer sitters, although one easy offering in Adelaide convinced him it was time to go. During that match against India he briefly became the leading gloveman in Test cricket by overtaking Mark Boucher, then the following day announced his retirement from all cricket but the Indian Premier League.
Cricinfo staff September 2008
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