Adam Gilchrist, who revolutionised the role of the wicketkeeper-batsman, has retired from Tests barely 24 hours after taking the world record for dismissals. The shock news means Gilchrist will depart on a global high at the end of the fourth match against India on Monday and his last ODI appearances will come in the CB Series, which finishes in March.
Over the past couple of years Gilchrist, 36, has been worn down by the grind of international touring and has been desperate to spend more time with his wife Mel and their three children. Despite his family circumstances, Gilchrist's announcement at the end of the third day came as a surprise after he had spent much of the previous evening denying he was close to walking away.
"I'll let people know when I'm going to retire," he said on Friday, "whether it's tomorrow or in 12 months. At the moment I'm going to keep focussing on giving everything I've got to this team."
He told his team-mates in the morning he was leaving and it was an emotional time. "I've come to this decision after much thought and discussion with those most important to me," Gilchrist said before boarding the team bus. "My family and I have been fortunate to have had an amazing journey full of rich experiences throughout my career."
Gilchrist played 96 Tests, the same number as Rod Marsh, and has collected 414 dismissals, currently one more than South Africa's Mark Boucher. However, his glovework, which has diminished over the past month, will not be why he is remembered as one of Australia's most significant players.
Matthew Hayden, who has been a team-mate of Gilchrist's for the past eight years, called it "massive news" and said he would be "deeply, deeply missed". "He is one of the greatest to have ever played the game," Hayden said. "He was incredibly positive and his flamboyant nature equals the greats of Viv Richards and other calypso characters over the years.
"He entertained everyone globally and has done it in a statesman-like way. He changed cricketers throughout the world and is a tremendous individual."
Gilchrist brought a limited-overs approach to Tests, becoming the first man to launch 100 sixes in the format, registering the most centuries by a wicketkeeper-batsman, and scoring at a phenomenal strike-rate in the low 80s. Apart from posting almost 6000 runs, he was also responsible for the more aggressive approach to a game where three runs an over was previously considered reckless.
Growing up in New South Wales, he moved to Western Australia to collect a first-class opportunity and made his Test debut to a chorus of boos after replacing Ian Healy in Brisbane. He scored 81 against Pakistan and brought up his first century in the following match in a miracle chase in Hobart. From 1999 the Australia team was never the same, winning 16 Tests in a row under Steve Waugh, a streak that was matched by Ricky Ponting's outfit over the past three years.
One of only three players to have won a trio of World Cup titles, Gilchrist was picked to open on a Waugh hunch over a bowl of ice-cream and quickly became one of the most threatening limited-overs players of all time. Others have tried to adopt his style but none has managed it for a decade, which is a tribute to the traits developed by a country boy from northern New South Wales.
"I am now ready and excited to move into the next phase of my life, which will include much more time with Mel, Harrison, Annie and Archie," Gilchrist said. He thanked his state and country associations and his team-mates for the "most enjoyable, fun career anyone could hope for". Brad Haddin, the New South Wales wicketkeeper, has spent the past couple of years with the limited-overs team and should get his first taste of Test action if the March tour to Pakistan goes ahead.
Two more wickets need to fall before Gilchrist will appear at Adelaide Oval and he will be celebrated like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer were last year. Adelaide has not been the normal place for farewells over the past decade, but Gilchrist has not been a traditional player.