Posted by: nestaquin | March 22, 2008

Adam Gilchrist: Part Three

Gilly WalksThere are very few cricketers in the modern game that have an untarnished reputation when it comes to honesty and integrity. The spoils of international cricket stardom, mostly fame and fortune, have contaminated many a young man’s character.

It is, of course, understandable. We reside within an ultra-competitive, cynical capitalist society and the player’s careers are relatively short and the rewards are extensive.

There is an aggrieved faction within the cricketing community that long for the days of yore when the grand game was played with a spirit of respect and fraternity. Many of them feel, rightly or wrongly, that the modern game has lost it’s romance.

In Part three of our series on Adam Gilchrist we delve into the moment when Adam gave the cynics and misanthropes some food for thought.

World Cup Semi-Final v Sri Lanka, Port Elizabeth 18 March, 2003

In one of the most important ODI matches of his illustrious career Adam Gilchrist did what was unthinkable in the modern arena. He walked. Not when the match was effectively won and there was nothing to lose but when the match was in the balance.

Australia were building a solid opening stand at St. Georges when inexplicably, and from an Australian perspective, unbelievably, Gilly decided to ignore umpire Rudi Koertzen’s not out decision and turned on his heel and headed for the dressing room.

While the Sri Lankans celebrated Arivinda de Silva’s good fortune, I remember throwing my shoe at the television and cursing so exuberantly that I woke the baby. Apparently, when Gilly returned to the shed his team-mates felt likewise meeting him with cold stares and a deadly silence.

When Ponting was dismissed in the next over Gilly started to doubt his actions as he explained in his book, “Walking to Victory”.

I was going well on 22 off 19 balls, seeing it like a football, when Aravinda came in for the second ball of his first over. He pitched it up and I went for an aggressive sweep, trying to hit it behind square leg. I got a thick, loud bottom edge. It bounced off my pad and I had no idea where it went.

“Catch it! Catch it!” I heard. I stood and turned to see that [Kumar] Sangakkara had it. I knew I was done. It was so obvious.

Then, to see the umpire shaking his head, meaning, “Not out”, gave me the strangest feeling. I don’t recall what my exact thoughts were, but somewhere in the back of my mind, all that history from the Ashes series was swirling around. Michael Vaughan, Nasser Hussain and other batsmen, both in my team and against us, who had stood their ground in those “close” catching incidents were definitely a factor in what happened in the following seconds. I had spent all summer wondering if it was possible to take ownership of these incidents and still be successful. I had wondered what I would do. I was about to find out.

The voice in my head was emphatic.

Go.

Walk.

And I did.

It was a really weird sensation to go against the grain of what 99 per cent of cricketers do these days, and what we’ve been doing for our whole careers. I was annoyed because I felt like I was batting well and had the chance to lay the foundation for a big team score – and it was me taking that away from myself.

Of course, the guys back in the viewing room were a bit stunned at what I’d done. Flabbergasted, really, that I’d do it in a World Cup semi. While I sat there, thinking about it and being asked about it, I kept going back to the fact that, well, at the end of the day, I had been honest with myself. I felt it was time that players made a stand to take back responsibility for the game. I was at ease with that. The more I thought about it, the more settled I became with what I’d done. You did it for the right reasons.

That was on a personal level. But what about my commitment to the team? I couldn’t entirely keep a lid on the negative thoughts. If we lose this game, how am I going to feel?

We were 1-34 in the sixth when I came back into the sheds. But suddenly Ricky [Ponting] had scooped one up from Vaas in the next over and we were 2-37 in the seventh. It was the sort of wicket that was difficult to play big shots on. Playing through a ball a bit early encourages it to pop up, and that’s how Vaas got Matt Hayden in the 12th. Three for 51.

The nerves were so intense at that point, my self-doubt was mounting. Even if I’d been bowled middle stump, I still would have been kicking myself for having lost control of the game.

Fortunately for Gilly and the integrity of the game, the Australians prevailed and went on to claim the country’s third World crown and second in succession. I have no doubt that if Australia would have lost that game Gilchrist would have been held responsible and there would have been many in the Federation, including members of his own team, that would have held him forever to blame.

Retrospectively, I am chuffed that Gilly set an example for other sportsmen, be they professional or amateur, to follow. We expect a great deal from our sporting heroes and in this instance Adam lived up to every imagination.

Tomorrow: Under Gilly’s captaincy the Baggygreens break a 35 year hoodoo.

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Responses

  1. That passage should go on the wall of every recreational cricket club. There’s an argument for not walking when the umpires are fellow pros – none at all when they are giving their own time to facilitate the game.

    Well done Gilly.

  2. I have never been a big fan of the behavior of Australian cricketers. I think Adam Gilchrist may be the one responsible for chaging that. Gilchrist is my favorite cricketer of all time even though I cursed his every great shot during the 2007 final against Sri Lanka (my team). Today Australia has some class acts such as Bret Lee, Mitchell Johnson and Mike Hussey. The Indians have now managed to take over the mantle as the #1 arrogant group of brat boys.


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