Gilly Danda

Whenever two cricket lovers get together for a conversation, especially if they be from different generations, arguments become inevitable—was Richards better than Sachin, were the West Indies team of the late 70s and early 80s better than the all conquering Aussies of today or were they both nothing compared to Bradman’s Invincibles, whether Akram could hold a candle to Lillee, whether Thomson was faster than Fred Trueman, and whether M L Jaisima more dashing than Yuvraj Singh.

There are however a few things about which there is almost never any argument, things that people from all generations agree on.

Namely, Bradman was the greatest batsman of all time, Sobers the best all-rounder and Noel David the most puzzling Indian selection ever.

I propose we add one more to this list of cricket axioms.

Adam Gilchrist is the greatest “wicket-keeper batsman” that ever set foot on a cricket field.


Note I do not use the word “wicket-keeper” only. Though the data (the combination of dismissals per innings and total number of dismissals) is overwhelmingly in Gilchrist’s favor, people would still contend that Ian Healy was a better keeper to Warne, Alan Knott’s technique was sheer perfection, Marsh had a much tougher assignment keeping to Lillee and Thomson (the story goes that he had to put slices of meat in his gloves to dull the impact of gathering) and that Wally Grout, Don Tallon and Bertie Oldfield were legends in their time.

In the modern game however, the pure wicketkeeper is an extinct species. Wicket-keepers who would not be able to justify their places in the team as pure batsmen, are almost globally out of favor. Part of that reason is Adam Gilchrist himself, who has emerged the gold standard for judging modern wicket-keeper batsmen be it Dhoni, Deep Dasgupta or Kamran Akmal. People may argue for Kumar Sangakkara (his batting average is better than Gilchrist) but with 149 catches + 20 stumpings from 71 matches (to date) vs 379 catches + 37 stumpings from 96, there is not much doubt with regards to who is the “game set match” winner in the “keeper” part of the job description.

But then greatness cannot be measured in terms of decimal points and graphs. If it was, Kallis would be considered to be one of the greatest batsmen ever and Pravin Amre would be a bigger legend than Victor Trumper. What makes Gilchrist an all-time great was his scintillatingly athletic glovework coupled with the most explosive batting one could hope to see. In an age of percentage players and endless soft-handed nudges down to third man, Gilchrist was one of the honorable exceptions—an entertainer who combined hard-nosed professionalism with full-blooded fearlessness.

Friend or foe, you watched Gilly bat. And you applauded.

In One Day Internationals, he was the advance guard of the Australian juggernaut, the archer wreaking havoc in enemy ranks with fire-arrows while partner Hayden mowed down the opposition with skull-cracking blows from his club. Combining Lara-esque footwork with Jayasuryan power, batting was easy for Gilly. Fractionally short and he would rock back and unleash cuts, pulls and hooks with a ferocious flourish. Overcompensate by pitching it up, he would move his foot out and cover-drive or send the ball into the mid-wicket stands. And sometimes just for variety, he would push the ball and run a quick single.

There have been many entertaining batsmen in the game who have pleased the crowd, scored runs by the thousands but come the crunch moment with everything to play for, they have been found wanting, unable to rise to the occasion.

Not Gilly.

In the 1999 World Cup final, faced with Shoaib at his best and a still-crafty Akram he blasted a match-winning 54 off 36 balls with a memorable assault on cricket’s biggest gas-bag (37 runs off 4 overs). In 2003, he also got Australia off to a galloping start against India with a 48 balls 57. But his greatest one day innings was left for World Cup final 2007 when in an orgy of calculated hitting , he scored 149 off 104 balls bringing the Sri Lankans to their knees in a way that was as nothing short of spectacular.

His role in the Australian Test batting line-up was however in sharp contrast—there he was the reserve cavalry whose job it was to ruthlessly clean up the remnants of the enemy after the foot-soldiers had beaten them to submission. Blessed to have been part of possibly the greatest cricket machine in the history of the game, his role at No 7 was mostly to blast a quick fifty or hundred so as to give the McGraths and the Warnes more runs to bowl at. In this context, his innings against England in 2006 (the second fastest century in Test history) comes to mind when in an inspired hour and a bit more, he knocked the stuffing out of Flintoff, Harmison and Panesar in such fashion that if it was a boxing match the referee would have had to stop it.

But then there were also days, rare though they were, when the front ranks had been decimated. Gilchrist then became the lone Wolf, that heroic warrior for whom no battle is lost. 1999. Hobart. Chasing 369 runs to win against a rampaging Pakistani attack with the Australians all at sea against Saqlain Mushtaq, Adam Gilchrist came out and bludgeoned a rear-guard 149 not out off only 163 balls. The innings however I remember most of all, because it came against us Indians, was the one he played in Bombay in 2001. After India, led by Harbhajan had taken 5 wickets for below 100, Gilchrist together with Hayden played yet another inspired innings. He was not always in control, but such was his power, aggression and most importantly self-belief that it seemed he could do no wrong as balls whistled to the boundary. Scoring at more than a run a ball, he cracked a breathtaking century that took the match irrevocably away from India.

However as time goes by, the armor becomes heavy for even the greatest of gladiators, the aim wavers and the swings of the rapier increasingly miss the sweet spot. And as the man who has hit the most sixes in Test cricket takes his wooden sword, mounts his battle-weary steed and heads off into the sunset, we can do nothing more than doff our caps, applaud and be thankful for having witnessed a champion, the likes of whom come only once in many generations.

Farewell Gilly.

53 thoughts on “Gilly Danda

  1. true… very true. A nice standing ovasion to the man! I frankly wish him to come back…

  2. Nice post, Gilly was a great player. And he was comparatively better behaved than most in the Aussie team.

  3. Gilchrist has an aura that commands respect without having to shout, abuse, or cry for it. According to me, he is one of the top three batsmen post 1990. Add to that his skills behind the wicket, and someone like him can wreck any team.

    Thanks for writing this piece GB.

  4. Ex-players don’t march into the sunset – they just defect to the IPL or ICL.

  5. Beautifully written. Can’t wait to see him turn out for Bangalore in a couple of month’s time.

    btw, it is “wavers” in the last para. Didn’t want such a beautiful piece to have any blemish.

  6. Well written Arnab, the concern I have though is that not only do we miss the entertainer, we also miss a professional sportsman ( considering the Aus Team can stoop down to any level to win at any cost).The other exception could be Brett Lee.

    Good on you Gilli …all the best mate.

    On another note Arnab,I was wondering on what you or any other readers were thinking of the Harbhajan’s acquittal. I thought it was worth discussing especially when the BCCI power brokers have gone to the lengths of actually chartering a flight in case the ruling was’nt in our favour…

  7. I thought you would be doing ‘danda’ to gilly today. Thankfully it was a farewell post for a hero πŸ™‚

  8. My generation grew up with the mythical and larger than life Phantom: The Ghost Who Walks. This generation had the near mythical and almost larger than life Gilchrist: the Champ Who Walks. They both moved like greased lightning, as the old jungle saying goes.

  9. Most of the recent Aussie cricketers’ retirement has been puzling & very disappointing. Still can’t get over Shane Warne’s exit from intl cricket & now Gilchrist …why , oh why?

    Also, can’t fathom the reason for the retired chaps turning out for twenty-20

    Excellent post, GB . Thanks.

  10. An apt tribute to the best in business. It couldn’t have been better. Very well written.
    It takes balls to remain in the shadow of Ian Healy for 6-7 years and then finally to be chosen as the first choics stumper at the age of 29 and to create an almost-invincible position for himself after that within a span of only 8 years. And Gilly has hown he had those balls and many other things. Had Gilly started a bit earlier, I wonder how unreachable his records would have been.
    It would have been very easy for him to give it all up in frustration and lose track while waiting for Healy to retire in the late nineties.
    He could and still can make it into any squad by pure merit as just a batsman, or just a wicket-keeper.
    Take a bow, Mr Adam Gilchrist. You were a gift to cricket.

    P.S – I personally would have liked Gilly to quit after playing 100 tests. There are players who would have died to win that 100th cap even if they were in pathetic form.

  11. more The Kid January 30, 2008 — 2:36 pm

    @Sriram–Ex players not only get into IPL/ICL. Some of them unfortunately become commentetors and/or Experts on myriad TV shows. Kapil Dev, Siddhu,Maninder Singh, Jimmy Amarnath, Chetan Sharma, Madanlal( knw..err) , Venkatesh Prasad (Errrrr… Errr….), Amir Sohail, Athar Ali, Michael Slater etc etc..

  12. more The Kid January 30, 2008 — 2:43 pm

    Agree that Gilly is the greatest -one of his kind. And agreed Sangakkara doesnt come close and is a better batsman than a wicketkeeper. But still feel its unfair to compare the catches taken by him vis a vis Gilly. remember, Gilly also a prolofic wicket-taking bowling outfit- esp Mcgrath, who specialised in the nagging line outside off and Warne-who turned the ball a mile away from the batsmen. catches by the wicketkeeper is an indication of the bowling attack as well..
    And GB, if Healy was outstanding keeping to Warne, Nayan mongia was scintillating against Kumble( on Indian tracks too). And keeping to kumble would be an even harder job, given his pace and unconventional style.

  13. Sorry greatbong for this irrelevant post here, but then this is an update on the Prabhu-ji vs bhojpuri film industry fracas — the ban on chelaa-ji Ravi Kissen for supporting Prabhu-ji has been lifted.

  14. I think Gilchrist was iconic but I am not sure if he was a legend or an ‘axiom’
    My personal favorite would be Moin Khan – had he been given the chance to open he could have come out with the goods and keeping wise he was a notch better than gilly

  15. Very nicely written! Gilchrist is truly one of the best the game has seen.

    Noel David the most puzzling Indian selection ever :)…Noel David brings to mind the likes of Dodda Ganesh, David Johnson….What a phase that was for Indian Cricket!

  16. Well said! Gilly was a true champion and no doubt the best WK-bat ever!!

  17. He was easily the GREATEST wicket-keeper batsman in the history of cricket. Take a bow, Gilly…

  18. Well said, GB, well said.

    And you missed Harvinder Singh as the most puzzling selection ever.

    Psst, if you can find the Times Now debate between Prof. Shetty (BCCI), Harish Salve (Lawyer), Ghulam Nabi Azad (WTF?!) and a couple of others tonight on the tape and transcript of the Bhajji-Symonds affair, do so. Prof Shetty conducts himself unlike any board official has ever done – with dignity and reason. A far cry from the @#$% Niranjan Shahs and Lalit Modis.

  19. I hope this retirement is going to seriously impact the aussie party and make them a team others can compete with. The invincibility of the team was because of 3 legends (Warne, Gilly, Mcgrath).. well may count Ricky 4th. May be 3 above average bowlers can raise their game to collectively cover up mcgrath’s abesnce. Its the other 2 warnie and gilly that is going to hurt them for a while.

    How much of an impact India is going to face when the heroes retire. Are we going to be like the windies post retirement of their stars. This ODI series will give trailer but the real impact will be in tests. This team has atleast 3 legendary test players anil, ten and dravid. Amongst the openers and all-rounders who made their debut post gavaskar and kapil the closest to them are sehwag and pathan. I am afraid the difference this time is going to be as huge.

  20. totally agreed. I didn’t believe myself, but I actually felt a little lump in the throat when Gilly was leaving the field. Probably the only Australian for whom I felt and will feel this way. No sir, not even McGrath or Warne. Take a bow, Gilly!!

  21. The best ever Wicket Keeper Batsman Ever… Period.

    Very well written dada. Great words for a greater player.


  22. He walked….

  23. Nice post. The part I disagree with is : “Noel David the most puzzling Indian selection” hehe….. I think I can come up with more puzzling Indian selection stories!

  24. Great player. Hate to see him retire from international cricket. Hope to see him at the IPL.

    Isn’t it amazing that Australia already have a great replacement in Haddin ! Amazing how good infrastructure can do to bench strength. The Board of Cricket Calamity of India should think along these lines and provide all elite and plate level Ranji teams with international team like facilities. Also we should have more training centers for 12-16 year olds where they are not only taught the skills of the game but also advised on physical fitness, diet and on-field behaviour.

  25. more The Kid
    Good point. I was about to say the same thing.

  26. @Arnab: Hmm

    @Vaibhav: True

    @TheWalker: Thanks

    @Sriram: Defect? Its just light post-retirement work. He has bills to pay also right?

    @Mohan: Thank you for pointing that out. Corrected. BTW I thought the player auctions havent happened..right? I say that because you mention that AG will turn out for Bangalore.

    @Srikanth: Bhajji’s acquittal. They never had a case against him.

    @Jeet: We shall play with Dandas some other day.

    @Ranjan: Hmm.

    @JM: Thanks

    @dEBoLiN: Look at how long it took Hussey to get a look-in. Gilchrist can consider himself lucky in that respect.

    @Sid No More the Kid: Nayan Mongia? Please note again, I said “wicketkeeper-batsman”. Kirmani was way better than Mongia in terms of purely wicketkeeping abilities. BS Chandrasekhar was deadly difficult to keep to also.

    @Skeptic: As long as the ban on Mithunda is not lifted, the Bhojpuris will remain on my wrath list.

    @Shreyas: Moin Khan? Cannot agree. He is nowhere compared to Gilchrist–neither in terms of keeping nor batting nor attractiveness. Rashid Latif was a better keeper than he was I felt.

    @JJ: But all these names people had heard of when they were selected. Noel David even SRT had never heard of…

    @GSIK: Right !

    @Dhananjay: Right again.

    @Aditya: Harvinder Singh was bad. But at one point of time, he was one of the best we had. Sad but true. But this Noel David guy came right out of the blue.

    @Ganguly Fan: Dont even want to imagine what will happen to India. Yuvraj has shown in the Tests the kind of bench strength we have. And Dhoni was not much better either.

    @Nishit: Right !

    @Tarzan: Thank you

    @Sourya: Not always.

    @SD: So which one do you think was the most puzzling ever?

    @Dibyo: IPL yeah. But I wonder how motivated players like AG will be. In ICL, Lara flopped—its the “almost famouses” like Harvey and Law and Craig McMillan who had the most impact.

  27. gb: no, not yet. I am hoping that we get him πŸ™‚

  28. Nice read. Thanks.

  29. I very much agree with you….Adam Gilchrist is undoubtedly the greatest wicket keeper batsman ever seen in cricket. He transformed the role of a wicket keeper in a team.

    For me he stands right at the top with the legends of cricket.

  30. GB, Couldn’t have agreed better with you.

    Gilly is undoubtedly the best wicket-keeper batsman to have ever played the gentleman’s game. Watching Gilly bat always painted in your mind, the picture of a champion gladiator, swinging his sword fearlessly, perpretating foes’ downfall with effortless killer blows peppered with sharp run-stealing nudges and speed-runs between the wickets. The best part about him was that he always seemed supremely in control at the crease (the other being that he delivered in crunch situations, as you pointed out).

    His decision to walk, and do so even in the face of conflicting opinions from his own team-mates speaks volumes about his mental strength. Add to that his snap decision to retire when he felt he had lost his ‘competitive edge’, records be damned (4 more tests and he’d be in the 100-test club), and know you know you are talking about one of the greatest sportsmen alive.

    I’d say he could have never kept wickets and still gone on to earn a blog here, just on the basis of his batting prowess.

    Take a bow Gilly.. You rocked!!

  31. Since you have mentioned Deep Dasgupta, Was not his selection the most puzzling one?

  32. Maybe i’m the only one smelling a conspiracy theory over here but I think that the Aussie selectors (with a penchant for looking forward at the expense of ‘ageing’ players) must’ve given an ultimatum to players like Tugga, Warnie, Pigeon and Gilly —

    “Declare your retirement or face the humilation of not having your name in the next squad”

    Not sure about Warne and McGrath, but I seriously think this must’ve happened with Steve Waugh (considering they ‘dropped’ his bro’ a couple of seasons back) and now Gilly.

  33. A breathtakingly devastating batsman this man. This guy could tonk sixes like no other. And his glovework was good enough to be among the best ones.

  34. @Tapaswini <— wow :O

    DD had a sound footwork, and he did prove himself in a couple of tests ! ..


    ahhhh ! .. i m left with a dropped jaw !
    beautifully written, Gilly will be remembered ! πŸ™‚

  35. Very well-written tribute, GB. Australia will have more difficulty in finding a replacement for him than for anybody else in the recent past, including S.Waugh, Warne and McGrath.

    You could have stressed on two more issues. First, Gilly’s value as a true sportsman. He was respected by his opponents worldwide for his spirit. His departure increases the “foulness” coefficient of the Aussie team by several orders of magnitude. Second, the timing of his departure. How many international players would have hung their boots at their 96th test match, with no apparent successor breathing down their necks?

    Hats off to Gilly.

  36. @GB
    True. Australia exposed our gen next. In last 4-5 yrs we have debated about one or other being past prime and should be thrown. But its clear and alarming now. Ten is by far no1, RD, Lax, SG 2-4 depending on form, opponent, motivation and some extent Sehwag at 5. Next there is pacific ocean.

  37. I started to hate the Australians. I’ll never forget, how Gilly appealed for Dravid catch, when he knows it was not out.

    And then they didnt even invite Gavaskar for presention, and its called Gavaskar-Hadlee Trophy.

    Everything Austrilia porjects is farce. [edited out by GB]

  38. I dont feel theres anything wrong in saying Australians are cheats, as we all had seen. They called themselves Pommie bastards, affectionately, as they are!

  39. @Ringo – hate Aussies if you must (it’s your call if you want to get ulcers), but try to get your facts right. Pommies are what they call Brtishers, not themselves, and the trophy is Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Hadlee was from NZ, so doesn’t make sense to have a Indo-Aus series trophy to be named after Hadlee.

  40. Sid..No More The Kid February 1, 2008 — 7:47 am

    @ Ringo: Pommie Bastards- English (atleast the Pommie part of it, not sure about the latter)
    Hadlee-Gavaskar Trophee??? Indo-Aussie Series? Are you sure you are living on the same planet as us?

  41. Sid..No More The Kid February 1, 2008 — 7:49 am

    @GB– I know you are talking about keeper-batsman, and agree wholeheartedly on everything you say. Just was reminded of Nayan Mongia because his keeping against Kumble on turning tracks were superb..not comparing with anybody at all πŸ™‚

  42. hey Ringo

    this ain’t rediff ,buddy

  43. Most under-utilized test-batsman I say!

    Loved the way he played his shots, he never ever mistimed any…..not even is retirement announcement.

    BTW, any idea why Sachin didn’t play recent Twenty-20 match?

  44. Too gr8 a piece for a good batsman.

  45. Very nice post. Gilly’s story brought to my memory another lemon that Guru Greg had sold us – that Dhoni will be the next Gilchrist. Far from it. Dhoni seems to have been sorted out nice and proper. Even in T20 matches he has become a stroke-less wonder. With bowlers not giving him the width and bouncing it up to him, Dhoni has been left clueless. He can’t, as he wants to, dominate the bowling. Any time he attempted to do it in the Test series someone in the 4-slip, 2-gully arc would snap him up. He has strong wrists, but they are not supple for him to nudge the ball around and keep the scoreboard ticking over. The result: the poor chap just can’t score. I loved his cricket in the sub-continent, but now it looks like a rather limited batsman. At this rate, his days may not be very many, esp since a wicket keeper-batsman like Parthiv Patel is on a song in domestic cricket. All this adulation (like mine some time ago) and endorsements may not stay for long. And if that happens, I wonder if his captaincy will?

  46. great tribute
    hmm…was waiting for another dada workshipping, dileep.prem..bashin’ post….

  47. Arnab,
    As the whole nation was busy following the tour down under and the related events, no one has noticed that an equally great player and a legen in his own roght, Shaun Pollock also said good bye to international cricket. Would’ve loved if someone like you paid a tribute to such a fine cricketer who has done the game, country and his own family(which has a great cricketing history) proud.

  48. On him being better behaved than his team mates, I couldn’t agree more. I still remember him walking out even after being given not out in the semi-finals against SL.

  49. Absolutely agree, Arnab. The greatest wicketkeeper batsman of all time. ‘Nuff said.

  50. I agree AG is a great all rounder but I think Kumar Sangakkara should get a fair shot at the title of the greatest Wicketkeeper Batsman.
    For starters,
    – He has more runs than AG in less tests
    – His batting avg(56.7) is better that Tendulkars 55.5

    True, he lags in total dismissals(way behind AG – 400 vs KS – 170), but then Australia has better bowlers…

  51. True, Sangakarra is now undisputedly the greatest wicketkeeper batsman.

    I was wondering what would have happenned if Australia had scored say 200 runs. I think we would have struggled to make it.

  52. ^^

    That’s in reference to yesterday’s match. Both the Sharmas have shown a bit of class, but I feel young Ishant is being hyped to high heavens. I hope it doesn’t get to his head.

    He’s a lot like Srinath, who was pacy, but not great. Hopefully he’ll pitch it up more and get more wickets.

  53. Add Sunil Valson (’83 World Cup) to the list of puzzling selections. You can probably do a whole piece on “puzzling selections” – Bharat Reddy, Ghulam Parkar, the list goes on….

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