Jason Neil Gillespie
April 19, 1975, Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales
Right hand bat
Right arm fast
Cabra College, Adelaide
Jason Gillespie's bouncing mullet, hook nose and Spofforth-like glare were a pleasing constant in Australian pace attacks during the first half of the 2000s. It was a rare treat for Gillespie, who played only 52 of a possible 92 Tests after his 1996-97 debut thanks to an assortment of ailments: busted feet, stress fractures in the back, hip twinges, side strains, dicky shoulders, torn calves, aching hamstrings, groin complaints and a broken right leg. Each time he recovered and until being dropped during the 2005 Ashes he had missed only two Tests since November 2002. Through it all, in partnership with Glenn McGrath, he blossomed into one half of Australia's most statistically successful opening pair ever. But if McGrath's strength was his ability to make the ball do just enough, then Gillespie's flaw is his tendency for it to do too much. No other contemporary fast man has elicited so many plays-and-misses. It explains, perhaps, along with his slightly samey length, why Gillespie never quite imposed himself as Australia's No. 1 strike bowler. Nor has he truly dominated an opposition line-up; remarkably, the most wickets he has taken in a single series is 20. Operating from a shorter reconfigured run-up, he is not so consistently quick and in England Michael Vaughan treated Australia's fifth most successful bowler like a medium-pacer.
However, few Australian fast men can have owned such deep wells of tenacity. Gillespie bowls long spells in the hottest conditions - always uncomplainingly, and always with the seam upright and the ball jagging both ways - and he showed the trait again when he promised to return to the national team and memorably achieved his aim against Bangladesh. He collected eight wickets in the two-match series, taking his Test tally to 259 while McGrath, Kasprowicz and Tait were missing, but his unforgettable moment came over 574 minutes and 425 balls. His maiden century was a magnificent, unbeaten 201 that was easily the highest score by a nightwatchman.
He is popular with team-mates and bashful with the public. He watches wrestling, listens to heavy metal and celebrated his first Test fifty with a bat ride embellished from the movie Happy Gilmore. He was more restrained while clocking off unthinkable milestones at Chittagong and it was appropriate recognition for a hardy and valuable batting approach that has also produced two unbeaten half-centuries and a priceless 26, which sealed a hard-fought draw against India in 2004-05. A second first-class century came in 2007 at Yorkshire shortly before he retained his Cricket Australia contract. Throughout the previous home season he was certain he wouldn't be rewarded, but his 30 Pura Cup wickets at 28.43 helped him to sneak into the squad as experienced back-up, ending the idea of him moving states. With no chance of a recall, he announced his retirement from first-class cricket during the 2007-08 season and signed a three-year contract with the unofficial Indian Cricket League.
The great-grandson of a Kamilaroi warrior, Gillespie occupies a significant niche in Australian history as the first acknowledged Aboriginal Test cricketer.
Cricinfo staff February 2008
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