Bye Bye Gilly

6 03 2008

Tuesday marked a momentous occasion. Cricket bid farewell to yet another all-time great. Just over a year ago, after regaining The Ashes following a 5-0 whitewash, McGrath and Warne both said their goodbyes from Test match cricket, Warne having already retired from One Day cricket and McGrath following suit after winning the World Cup one more time.

Now we can add the name of Adam Gilchrist to the list, and when you add the names of Justin Langer, Damien Martyn and Brad Hogg to the mix, this clearly marks the end of a golden era in Australian cricket, an era of dominance.

Whether that dominance is at an end remains to be seen, those proclaiming them “finished” after losing another home One Day series are forgetting that after England won 2-0 last year they went on to win the World Cup without truly being tested.

Whilst, however, I think the standard of domestic cricket in Australia is simply too high for them not to continue to produce quality players, there is no doubt that losing players of the ilk of Gilchrist, McGrath and Warne, players who have in many ways redefined the roles of wicketkeeper-batsman, opening bowler and leg-spinner respectively, will hurt.

No matter how good the young players coming through are, replacing true greats is no easy feat. For them to fall as far from grace as the West Indies did, going from being the dominant force to practically being whipping boys (until more recently) is unlikely but the age of the Indian team that beat them, coupled with the Under 19s winning the World Cup, suggests that we might be seeing the dawn of a new dominant force.

Yet none of that is really what I want to talk about. No, as a long-time admirer of Gilchrist, I’d like to take a moment to recognise just what a player he’s been. He holds the second fastest test century, the quickest by an Australian, as well as the second quickest One Day century, behind his opening partner Matthew Hayden. He was at his brilliant bludgeoning best in the World Cup final scoring a huge 149 off 104 balls.

Looking back that might have been the best time for him to have retired. Following the 5-0 Ashes win, and that dominant performance in the World Cup final, any other finale for the great man could only be anti-climactic, and so it proved. It is incredibly disappointing to watch a great winner go out off the back of defeat like that, but alas.

Not only a superb cricketer, with incredible talent, both with the gloves and with the bat, but a man who always played the game in the right spirit. Gilly’s one of the few Australians who walked when he knew he was out, something Australian batsmen are encouraged not to do but his sense of fair play was simply too strong. Not only that but he has continually recognised that he has a responsibility as an entertainer as well as a sportsman, that his job is to entertain the crowd as well as win cricket matches.

For this reason he has spent his entire career as one of the more popular cricketers of his era, not only with his own fans, who adore him, but by rival fans who would pay good money just to see him bat. It seems somewhat strange that in the past year we’ve said goodbye to three of the great left-handed entertainers of the modern era, Brian Lara, who retired after the World Cup, Sanath Jayasuriya, who retired from Test match cricket earlier this year, and now Gilly. Inzamam has retired and the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly can’t be far behind, not to mention the irreplaceable Murali.

Not just the end of an era for Australian cricket, then, but cricket as a whole. How sad.



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