Review by Goutham Chakravarthi
When I picked up the 627 page book two weeks ago I thought I’d find all answers to my questions on Gilchrist and Australian cricket during his time. As candid and wonderful the book may be, Gilchrist has chosen to overlook some ugly incidents involving his mates during his time. But, he takes all controversies involving him though and gives his side of the story. Fascinating to read was his hot-and-cold relationship with the likes of Warne and Slater.
Reasons why you should read the book:
1. He paints a wonderful picture of his formative years playing cricket in Lismore keeping wickets to his dad, a leg-spinner, in weekend games. His interaction with his equally sports inclined two brothers Dean and Glenn and sister Jacki makes for good reading.
2. Like with Steve Waugh, Adam finds his life partner in Mel in his high school days and blossoms into a life long partnership. Some of the many incidents involving him and Mel in their High School days are really funny and worth a read.
3. His relationship with his manager Stephen ‘Axe’ Atkinson. He would become a close mate to Adam and is also the god father of Adam’s daughter Annie. I particularly liked the part when Axe defends Gilly on the incident where Gilly is accused by Cricket Australiafor having made a public statement on Shane Warne as having deceived his teammates when he tested positive for drugs on the eve of 2003 World Cup.
4. Adam Gilchrist clears the air surrounding the ugly claim by cricket365.com that Slater had fathered Gilchrist’s first son Harry. At one point he even thinks that everyone, including his teammates, is talking about it behind his back. He genuinely thanks the media which kept the anonymous story under the lid. Cricket365.com was later sued for it.
5. His love-hate relationship with his childhood mate Michael Slater which reached its nadir in the 2001 Ashes in England where a emotionally struggling Slater challenges the standing captain Gilchrist (for Steve Waugh) after missing the team bus before a practice session. As things turned out, it would also be Slater’s last Test for Australia as Steve Waugh, returning for the final Test as captain, along with Gilchrist drop Slater for Justin Langer. Things are sorted out later with the controversy surrounding Gilchrist’s first child.
6. His views on John Buchanan as the coach. Contrary to Warne and MacGill’s opinion, Gilchrist claims Buchanan played a positive role in making Australia the world beaters. He also insists that Buchanan helped them become better individuals as well.
7. The boot camp preparation prior to Ashes 2006/07 takes the entire team out of their comfort zones. While Warne and MacGill, in particular, have been critical, Gilchrist believes that it sowed the seeds for a very successful season where they won the ICC Champions Trophy, Ashes and the ICC World Cup. I loved the portion of the boot camp story where Shane Warne produces 5 packs of Benson and Hedges cigarettes when asked to produce dependent medication by the boot camp coordinator.
8. His special relationship with his Western Australia and Australia mates Tom Moody, Justin Langer and Damien Martyn. It would blossom into many happy on-field performances for Australia and also the WA Warriors.
9. His emotional state as a batsman when Flintoff repeatedly knocked him over from round the stumps through the 2005 Ashes. When Andre Nel repeated the Flintoff performance in South Africa, he seriously thought he wasn’t good enough.
10. Once, he stumps McMillan off McGrath’s bowling, standing up to the stumps in a One Day International. Little does he realize that McGrath is frantically waving at him not to stump him as he doesn’t want a stumping off his bowling!
11. I often wondered if he never thinks of getting his eye in as he generally goes for it from the go. He mentions his unique eye exercise to get his eye in. You have to read the book for it.
12. He openly admits to captaincy being a burden and that he is not a born leader. That he was relieved when Ponting was preferred over him to take the reigns from Steve Waugh is a mere understatement.
13. His days as the villain in Perth for replacing the local legend Tim Zoehrer after moving to WA from NSW and then as the villain knocking Healy out of the Australian One Day side. How he copes with it and his relationship with these two keepers is fascinating.
14. His innumerable attempts to retire prematurely owing to personal failures. That he openly acknowledges them shows how candid he has been in analyzing his state of mind and how his wife Mel, Ponting and Buchanan helped him in making the right decisions.
15. Of course, the whole deal of him being a walker. He says it was ghost that would come back to haunt him in case things got wrong for him – like in Sydney 2008. He compares himself with the ‘selective walker’ Lara and ‘not-walking-against-Australia’ Dhoni. He believes it was his way of leaving the game in a better state than when he took to it. I for one bought that.
I am disappointed the he has chosen to ignore a few things.
1. The McGrath – Sarwan row involving McGrath’s wife. He doesn’t refer to this at all though he mentions Windies’ record 4th innings chase in that match which involved this incident.
2. He keeps the controversy of the India-Australia Sydney Test 2008 to the racism row and his catch dismissing Dravid and Steve Bucknor. It is unbelievable that the decisions involving Ganguly and particularly the catch claimed by Ponting after flooring the ball of Dhoni’s pad are either forgotten or swept under the carpet. That he still sees it as a great Test victory given he claims to have seen Australia on TV while sitting out in a few One Dayers earlier and thinking them to be over the top with sledging, whingeing and bad body language was setting a poor example for the kids!
3. He claims to be a close mate of Damien Martyn, but still can’t explain the reasons for Martin’s many mysterious disappearances between tours or like after he announced his retirement post the second Test of 2006/07 Ashes. He acknowledges that it might have been motivated by the row between Martyn and Hayden during their victory celebrations post the second Test. But nothing more!
Outside of these there are various other interesting things to the book. Like how a natural worrier he is and expects things to go wrong all the time and his various tiffs with administrators and journalists. He mentions of Pakistan being a favoured touring destination by many Australians of yore. He mentions of the great respect he has for the talents of sub continental cricketers and the tough unyielding spirit of the South Africans. His first time in England as a seventeen year old in 1989 is what he says prepared him for big time cricket. He even had to put on an English accent and pretend to be a Pom in a game after his captain figures out that overseas players aren’t allowed to be playing in that game! There you go, he’s even been a Pom for a day!