IPL 2013: Adam Gilchrist wades through marshes and swamps to knockout RCB in their own backyard

Adam Gilchrist rolled back the years as he powered Kings XI Punjab to an unlikely victory against Royal Challengers Bangalore at M Chinnaswamy stadium in IPL 2013 © IANS

By Bharath Ramaraj

September, 21 1996. A 24-year-old, unheralded wicket-keeper batsman, walks briskly to the crease in the Hong Kong Sixes against England. He doesn’t last long, as he makes just 15 runs off six balls. But he smashes two skyscraping sixes in his short and sweet innings. Even then, Adam Gilchrist carried an unmistakable stamp of precise timing and that glorious arc of a free-flowing back-lift.

Fast forward to the Kings XI Punjab-Royal Challengers Bangalore game in the 2013 Indian Premier League (IPL), one kept hearing right through the season, till the game against Bangalore, that Gilchrist doesn’t deserve a place in the Punjab side. In spite of playing innumerable blizzards all over the globe, critics opined that Gilchrist, who nowadays plies his trade only in the IPL, is over the hill. But with downright dogged determination and valiant warrior-like tenacity, the champion cricketer waded through marshes and swamps to land a knock-out punch on RCB in their own backyard.

RCB’s bowlers didn’t help their cause by testing the middle of the pitch while bowling to Azhar Mahmood and Gilchrist. Both batsmen are well known for playing rasping pulls and cuts. To bowl short to them at medium pace was inviting trouble. No wonder none of the bowlers could stymie the run-flow. With so many analysts around, it is unfathomable to think that they couldn’t work out Azhar and Gilchrist are very good on the back-foot.

It has to be said that Gilchrist’s knock of 85 lacked the flair and panache that we have all been accustomed to watching from his flashing blade. Instead of playing exhilarating shots from the middle of the bat, he was struggling for timing and form. Only when he got to 49 did he essay a gloriously well-polished shot straight down the ground off Zaheer Khan.

As a cricket-enthusiast, if I rack my brains and go down the memory lane, I still can’t remember Gilchrist mistiming so many of his shots. Even if one goes back in time to 1996-97, when as a rookie, Gilchrist played a few one-day games in South Africa, it is hard to recall the ball not hitting the sweet spot of Gilchrist’s bat. For once, it didn’t seem like his bat was manicured in such a way that there wasn’t any edge on it. But no one can take credit away from Gilchrist for playing like a street-fighter, and helping Punjab to chase down a daunting target.

If we look back at Gilchrist’s career, he has carved a niche for himself among the pantheon of greats not just for his batting or wicket-keeping prowess. He is also a true champion for upholding the well-established traditional ethos of gentleman’s game. Case in point is his magnanimous sporting gesture of deciding to walk back to the pavilion in the 2003 World Cup semifinal against Sri Lanka, though he wasn’t adjudged out.

Gilchrist’s thunderous knocks at the Gabba and Hobart against Pakistan in 1999-00, respectively, his thrill-a-minute double-hundred against South Africa at Wanderers in 2001-02, or his heart-stirring century in the 2007 World Cup final will be etched in one’s memory forever. At the age of 41, Gilchrist may struggle to rekindle those great memories of him carting opposition bowlers all over the park. But it was great to see the champion cricketer from Down Under leading the team from the front, and shepherding Punjab to a crucial victory against the pillaging Bangalore.

(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)