IT WAS reminiscent of another farewell against India, four Australian summers ago. Unlike that time, the protagonist here had caught everyone by surprise by the suddenness of his decision. Steve Waugh’s retirement was known to everyone well in advance, Adam Gilchrist’s became public knowledge just days before it actually happened.
The stage was adequately set, nonetheless, with his family turning up in almost full strength, barring brother Glenn, who Gilchrist couldn’t contact because “he is somewhere in the country and can’t be traced”.
The media conference had its share of emotions, especially when the man who redefined a wicketkeeper-batsman’s role paid his gratitude to his near ones.
Gilchrist’s voice choked, there was a lump in his throat that became evident despite his best efforts to swallow it and he finally gave himself a few seconds to shed tears before thanking wife Mel for helping him “become the best cricketer that I could and the best human being that I could”.
Excerpts from the meeting.
His most memorable moment: Beating India in India in 2004 (Ricky Ponting did not play, Gilchrist was the captain in the first three Tests, two of which Australia won to win a series in India after 35 years). I remember the moment Ponting got hit on the thumb in a Champions Trophy game at Edgbaston. He’s not the sort to leave the ground easily. He did then, and from that moment on I started to get nervous. I knew that I’d be offered the reins and started having self doubts and considered not taking it on. To captain that team for the bulk of the series and be part of that leadership group was the highest point and greatest achievement of my career.
When he decided to quit: The moment between the ball hitting the gloves and the ground (an edge from V.V.S. Laxman’s bat, off Brett Lee on the first day of this Test). It made me realise in the ensuing 10 or 15 minutes that that’s it. I’m not moving quite as well as I have, not just on the field but in training and my fitness. I just realised I didn’t have the absolute desperation that you need to continue to maintain your standards. I don’t think anyone in this room has missed the fact that I did miss a few chances this series. It was bugging me and I couldn’t understand why. I spoke to Mel that night and took the decision.
On those who walk, those who don’t: I don’t have a problem with those who don’t walk. They are well within their rights to do that. It’s a question of personal choice. I don’t tell people what to do and what not to.
On whether people will remember him more for his batting: I suppose they will. There have been times when I have had to defend my wicketkeeping. But I was not very graceful, nor technically accomplished or as good as people before me. I will be quite happy to be remembered for my batting.