I couldn’t speak to Gilly on Friday evening because they (the Aussies) had a team meeting just after the day’s play. I didn’t want to disturb them. So this morning, I congratulated him on his breaking the world record for maximum dismissals by a wicketkeeper, and told him I just wished that his 414th scalp wasn’t me. Or that it happened after 13 runs.
He just smiled, in the way he always does. I had no inkling, none of us did really, that some hours later he would announce his retirement from Test cricket. It has come as a huge surprise because I thought he had lots of cricket left in him and could have gone on for at least a year, till Australia came to India next winter.
<b1>As a spinner, I look at Gilly a little differently. Any quality spinner needs to have a special understanding with the wicketkeeper. Theirs is a very crucial partnership, and it was that way with Gilchrist and Warne for really long. He’s been brilliant behind the stumps. And that wasn’t just it. What really worked for Australia was Gilchrist coming in at number 7 and changing the complexion of a game single-handedly.
He was larger than life and frankly, the pressure on whoever replaces him is going to be immense. Comparisons will be made straightaway and to match up to the Gilchrist phenomenon will not be easy.
He is a different kind of opposition player, basically, it all boiled down to the fact that he is a nice man, humble, straightforward, quite down to earth.
We’ve always talked whenever we’ve played each other, or met anywhere else. After stumps, he would often come into the dressing room and chat with our team. He never really took whatever happened on the field off it. He believed that cricket should be played on the field and stay on the field. Whatever happened there should be left behind.
He also came across as someone who cared and made that extra effort to show it. I remember getting a surprise call from Gilly when I crossed 500 Test wickets. We weren’t playing after that and I was home when I got this call and the voice announced, ‘this is Adam Gilchrist’.
Australia were touring Bangladesh at the time and he told me that he had been trying to get in touch with me for the last 10 days and that it had been really tough getting through from there. It was really nice of him, but he is that kind of guy.
I haven’t spoken to him about the reasons for his decision but I can imagine what he went through before coming to it. There comes a time when it keeps going through your mind and you wonder. These decisions are rarely sudden.
I took a call on my retiring from ODIs because I was hardly in the XI anyway. So before leaving for the World Cup, I had decided that this would be my last one-day tour. Whether I played or not, whether we won or lost, I would not be playing after we returned from the Caribbean.
When you make these decisions, you sit with your family and tell them first. I did, I told my wife that this is it, I’m quitting one-day cricket. She supported me and said I should do what I think best. Gilly’s apparently said he needs to spend time with his family and I understand that.
You start thinking ahead, you think about spending more time with your family, doing the things you never had time to do. And it becomes a lot easier when the decision is done in your head. A lot of people ask me if I miss playing one-day cricket and I tell them I don’t.
Once I made up my mind, that was that. But yes, you have to be strong to make that decision, especially when you’re playing good cricket — you don’t want to stop. After all, it’s never easy for a sportsman, for anyone, to give up something that’s has taken up 15-20 years of your life. That mental step is a huge one.
I expect that the next couple of days of this Test will see a lot of focus on Gilly’s decision. But he deserves the attention.
It will be remarkably tough to replace someone like him, in more ways than one. He changed the way countries would look at wicketkeepers.
Once he started playing for Australia, he forced cricket boards across the globe to have a rethink on how they wanted their keepers to be. People only picked keepers who could bat really well.
When you look around international cricket now, most of the top wicket-keepers are good bats, some are brilliant even. Sangakkara, Boucher, Dhoni… McCullum is very decent too.
That change will forever be Gilchrist’s legacy to the game. But he will be sorely missed.