It's so easy to forget the contribution of these men with the gloves. But if you look at the composition or sheer dynamics of a cricket team, they are the most essential elements. They need to concentrate on every ball bowled and that's wearying, to say the least. One lapse of concentration could result in a dropped catch, a missed stumping, or a giving away of byes. And sadly, wicket-keepers are known more for the extras, and mistakes they are guilty of, and not so much for the yeoman's job that they do behind the wickets.
In recent times, Adam Gilchrist is the kind of wicket-keeper who will be remembered for all the things that one should have to be a successful keeper. As mentioned earlier with an astounding amount of catches and stumpings in his 12 year international cricket career, that is something to be proud of. But Gilly ( as most cricket lovers and close associates call him) is much more than just the man with the gloves. If you take a look at his batting record, you will see that his contribution has been more than just useful. So, its not surprising that he is the best wicket-keeper batsman that the cricket world has seen and perhaps will see for a long time to come. In tests, he is arguably the best number 7 batsman. His contributions over the years have been best at this position, having scored close to 4000 runs. In the one-day arena – he has played the role of opening batsman best and in the 9297 runs scored, 7398 have been made at this position.
Over the years, every time that Gilchrist has walked out on to the hallowed cricketing stage, he has done it with pride. He has proven that he is a tough customer at the wicket, as well as behind it. And in addition to his role as a wicket keeper and batter par excellence, he has also been captain of the one-day and Test side. Making him the only wicketkeeper in Australia to have captained the Australian Test and one-day teams. As captain, he never shirked responsibility and enjoyed taking part and being accountable for decisions taken on the field. The 2004 tour to India would rank high in his experience as a captain. For the team finished with a historic 2–1 series victory, a feat last achieved in 1969. In the 6 Test matches that he was captain he won 4, lost one and drew 1. And in the 17 one-day internationals he won 12, lost 4 and one had no result, so statistically he was top quality!
Leave aside all his cricketing accolades, perhaps what stands out most in a man like Gilchrist is that intangible quality of playing the game in the right spirit. Famously he is known for walking off, before the umpire gives him out, if he thinks he has edged one to the keeper or anyone else, or for any other contentious dismissal, 'Gilly' just walks back to the pavilion. That's his prerogative but a rather sporting one for sure. Similarly when he claims to have taken a catch behind the stumps or appeals with the bowler, he says that he does it only if he really believes that the batter is out. All this may sound to good to be true, specially when it's a hard fighting Australian behaving like a true gentleman.
Well, the fact of the matter is that the Australians may come across as being ruthless and unfeeling, but under all that, they are true competitors. In Adam Gilchrist, there is a man who is emotionally charged, and has had outbursts on the field of play. After all, what is a sportsman if he has no emotions. That's what makes him believable and all the more heroic. At the end of the day we are all human, now aren't we?
In life we learn that everything comes to an end, but when players like Adam Gilchrist announce their retirement you cannot help but feel deprived. Finding another 'Gilly', will take time. Perhaps too long. This beacon that embodied all that's positive in a wicket-keeper batsman will shine in the minds of cricket lovers worldwide. And in the words of a song from the band INXS, this is what I would like to sing to the man who has entertained in his immaculate Adam Gilchrist style:
Touch me and I will follow in your afterglow
Heal me from all this sorrow
As I let you go I will find my way when I see your eyes
Now I'm living in your afterglow
As he walks out for the final time at Adelaide, all his fans, can take heart for they can live in his afterglow.