Gilchrist to bid farewell to Sydney Cricket Ground Sunday

March 1st, 2008 - 10:24 pm ICT by admin  

Sydney, Mar 1 (IANS) When Adam Gilchrist walks down at the Sydney Cricket Ground Sunday, memories of 15 years will come gushing in. After all, it is the same ground where Gilchrist made his first-class debut against New South Wales (NSW). It’s a historic occasion as the greatest wicketkeeper-batsman of them all is going back to where it all began. Gilchrist made his debut 15 years ago for NSW when Glenn McGrath was also unveiled and a young Ricky Ponting belted a century for Tasmania.

“I knew he was a hell of a talent. I was the coach of the Australian under-19s tour to England in ‘91, and Adam was on that tour,” NSW chairman of selectors Steve Bernard said.

“I came back and told the NSW selectors about him, and he’d been given the chance to play some games as a batsman, but Phil Emery was the No.1 keeper and the captain. We were facing an impossible circumstance,” Bernard was quoted as saying in Sydney Morning Herald.

Former NSW all-rounder Greg Matthews recalls: “I was a senior player at the time and I begged Brute (Bernard) to keep Gilly. We were having a beer at a pub in Paddington. I told Brute, ‘This Gilchrist guy is special’.”

Gilchrist’s NSW career was six matches - as a specialist batsman. Phil was the wicketkeeper. Gilchrist averaged only 28 before the phone call from came from Western Australia. He could hang around in Sydney, playing for Gordon while waiting for Emery to retire or lose favour, or go to Perth to fast-track his progress towards the national team.

“I was asked as the chairman to make a decision, and it’s a decision I’ll always be comfortable with because it was made in Adam’s best interests,” Bernard said.

“The question was whether we were going to replace Phil with Adam, and the answer was no. For Adam’s development as a potential Australian player, going to Western Australia was the best thing for him to do. I thought, as chairman of selectors, there was no point in being dog-in-the-manger about it and trying to hang on to him. History has shown it was the best thing that could have happened to him, and the best thing that could have happened for Australian cricket.

Gilchrist’s first NSW match was forgettable. While McGrath stormed onto the first-class scene with 5-79 off 30 overs, and an 18-year-old Ponting cracked 125, Gilchrist batted at No.7 and made 16 before being trapped lbw by Tasmanian Shaun Young.

The SCG should be packed Sunday night. Not because it’s the first final of the tri-series between Australia and India, but because Adam Craig Gilchrist will never play here again.

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