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Thursday, January 31, 2008

'Playing with Gilly was a privilege' - Langer !!

One hundred sixes in Test match cricket pretty well sums Adam Gilchrist all up.The fact is everyone loves a six hitter. Whether is it is in the backyard, the village green or Lord's, we all love watching the cricket ball sail over the boundary rope.

Australia's latest retiree is the consummate entertainer who is sure to be missed by cricket lovers and team mates around the world.From the moment he entered international cricket he had an impact, and now, as he walks away from the game, he will be remembered as one of the all-time great players.

He has revolutionised the role of the wicket-keeper/batsman and in many ways he has raised the bar in terms of what is expected from the man behind the stumps.Not only do they have to be mistake-free with the gloves on, but they now have to be able to open the batting in one-day cricket and average in the high 40s with the bat in the longer forms of the game.

While Gilly has always prided himself on his wicket-keeping alone, his impact with the bat has been supreme.To this day I have never seen a player who can walk out and hit the first ball they face in the middle of the bat as regularly as Gilly does.

His ability is freakish and one of the catalysts behind Australia's breathtaking success over the last decade.Having him slide into the batting order at number seven was psychological murder for any opposition.

After working hard to dismiss Australia's top five, they always knew more was still to come in the form of one of the most consistently destructive players of all time.Playing with Gilly, like it was with Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, was unashamedly one of the privileges and highlights of my career.

Apart from his genius on the field, Adam Gilchrist was a great leader. His rare talent was to combine being one of the boys, while still playing his role as the team's vice-captain or captain.

Usually the team's leader has to be a little removed from the group but through sheer respect and a charismatic character he could be both; another talent which is as magnetic as his batting.Obviously he will be missed and the hole he leaves will be discovered with time but his replacement Brad Haddin is sure to take the opportunity.

Like Michael Hussey, Phil Jacques and Stuart Clark, Haddin has sat on the bench for a long time waiting and craving his opportunity.With street-fighting character and enormous talent to match, he will be a welcome and hungry inclusion in both forms of the game.

He has done everything that has been asked of him in his apprenticeship and my feeling is that he could be another instant star like the other 'senior' rookies that have come into the team over the last few years.

The question keeps being asked, 'Is this the end of Australian cricket's dominance?' and all I can say is that we were asked the same question when we lost in India after winning 16 consecutive Tests five or six years ago.

I never thought the record would be broken, but only two weeks ago that string of victories was at least matched by the current Australian test team.The system in Australia is strong and competition for places intense so any one who wants to write off Australian cricket could be doing it at their peril.

Whatever happens, the one thing that is certain is that the game will be worse off without the great Adam Gilchrist adorning cricket grounds around the world.

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