It would not be a hyperbole to state that Adam Gilchrist was the most thrilling cricketer to have ever graced the game.
Playing Cricket with freedom and ferocity, the presence of Gilchrist on the field often took us back to the heydays of Sir Garfield Sobers, which only further stamps the aura of the Aussie in the cricketing realm. More than the number of runs he scored or the stumpings he effected, the ruthless manner with which he achieved cricketing glory left a lasting impression. He changed the complexion of the game and rewrote how the world viewed wicket-keepers henceforth.
After the 1980s saw a peak in the form of cricket’s all-rounders, the new millennium was defined by wicket-keeper batsmen like Andy Flower, Alec Stewart, Kumar Sangakkara, Mark Boucher, and MS Dhoni. However, none of these greats managed to catch the eye of the followers with the panache that the left-hander from New South Wales exhibited. Whether it was scoring runs at a rapid rate or smashing towering sixes in a format where sixes were hardly the norm, Gilchrist left behind a legacy that left spectators and critics spell-bound and inspired.
Be it his 57-ball ton at Perth against England in 2007 or his phenomenal knock in the 2007 World Cup finals, where he raced away to 149 against Sri Lanka, his vintage stroke-making, the delectable class and the assured calmness were hard to miss and as he overhauled Ian Healy’s 395 dismissals as a keeper in 26 fewer matches, his breathtaking presence could in no way be overlooked. Playing 96 consecutive Test matches in an era where tight schedules and injuries prevailed, further made Gilchrist a phenomenon; a once-in-a-lifetime cricketer we were privileged to witness.
Gilchrist was a maverick; a magician who could delight us with the innumerable tricks up his sleeve. He was not only a special cricketer but also a thorough gentleman in a flock of uncouth individuals led by Ricky Ponting. In a culture where every umpire’s decision was questioned, the keeper started his own unique legacy of walking even before the umpire had announced his final decision. As the Indians, who were disgusted by the behaviour of the Australian players, converged as one in the controversial series in 2008 to hand Gilchrist an ovation for his services to cricket in his last Test at Adelaide, one could witness the respect that the cricketer had garnered, despite rising up from a culture where adulation for the opponent was looked down upon.
By realizing the importance of leaving the game of cricket in a better shape than he had found it, Gilchrist stood tall, questioning the snobbish attitude and the siege mentality that players around him were engulfed him. However, instead of ensuring that cricket pervaded the nonchalance, the sport has only managed to down-spiral ever since, and with the Australian cricket circuit reeling, cries for yet another Gilchrist, who would salvage cricket Down Under, has reached a crescendo.
Thus, more than his on-field demeanor – which are no less applaud-worthy, it is Gilchrist’s attitude towards the sport that won millions of fans. And for that, cricket will always be thankful.