When Gilchrist swapped shirts with AB

KXIP captain-coach talks about the top wicketkeeper-batsmen in the IPL

Mumbai 09 May 2012
The profession of wicketkeeper-batsman can be classified into two eras – pre and post-Adam Gilchrist. Until 1996, a wicketkeeper was expected to convert edges into catches, stop byes, gee up his teammates and irritate the batsman with constant chatter. Whatever he scored with the bat was a bonus. Then emerged a boy from New South Wales, who revolutionised this role. He won matches singlehandedly with the bat, flattening the morale of the bowlers – whether opening the batting in ODIs or batting at No.7 in Tests.

Arguably the best wicketkeeper-batsman ever, Gilchrist has been a part of the Indian Premier League since its inaugural season. Even at the age of 40, he is one of the most feared opening batsmen and is fitter than some of the young ‘keepers in the world. On a relaxed morning of a non-match day, the leader-cum-mentor of Kings XI Punjab took time to chat with and expressed his views on the top wicketkeeper-batsmen in IPL 2012.

MS Dhoni

Gilchrist spoke at length about his favourite wicketkeeper-batsman. He hailed his sharp cricketing mind, powerful batting skills and wished he carried his fearless brand of batting in Tests too.

(Click here to read Gilly’s take on Dhoni)

Kumar Sangakkara

A shrewd customer

He is an extremely hard working professional, which you can see when he is on the field. He is a very intelligent cricketer. You can see he puts a lot of thought and preparation into the way he goes about his cricket.

The ‘keeper: Versatility personified

He’s not keeping in this tournament. But along with Dhoni, Sanga’s another ‘keeper who I haven’t seen making blunders, which have cost his side. He has done an extremely difficult job of keeping to Muttiah Muralitharan and the variety of spinners in the subcontinent. I haven’t seen him ‘keeping in England, but what I’ve seen of him in Australia has been very impressive. He seems to make adjustments to varying conditions with ease.

Relinquishing the gloves

Kumar has given up wicketkeeping in Tests. I haven’t spoken to him directly, but I think it could be in order to extract maximum out of his batting. It’s a personal decision. If I had given up ‘keeping, my batting probably would have gone down because keeping added a balance in my game. I played 10 first class games in the beginning of my career as a batsman and I never felt like a complete cricketer. I put too much pressure on my batting when I didn’t have anything else to offer to my team, whereas when I was a wicketkeeper, wicketkeeping was my job and batting was just a bonus. Kumar could have continued keeping and batting lower down the order; but at the end, it’s his choice.

The batsman: Class meets aggression

He is one of the top three batsmen in the world currently and will go down as one of the top fifteen in the world ever. He really is a class act in the batting. He plays by the textbook but is not less aggressive. He has the ability of playing shots and maintaining high strike-rate. Even in Test cricket, he can bat with a good pace, which allows his team to bowl the opposition out. He is classy but just as aggressive.

Brendon McCullum

The ‘keeper: The unsung performer

Again, he doesn’t keep wicket in Test cricket to try and extract maximum from his batting. When he is keeping, he is really athletic. It’s really a tough job to keep in New Zealand where the ball wobbles around a bit. He has probably had as difficult a job as any other wicketkeeper because New Zealand never had a bowling attack, which could penetrate like some of the other teams. Therefore, fewer chances and fewer opportunities, which can make a wicketkeepers job more difficult.

The batsman: A Firecracker

He is like a firecracker. I love watching him bat. He is prepared to try anything and use every single part of the bat to get runs, whether it’s the scoop over the head or reverse or whatever it may be. He is an out-and-out aggressor.

AB de Villiers

The Superstar

Everything he does, he does a fine job of it. I swapped a shirt with him when we played for the first time against him in South Africa. I wanted to get something of his because I knew he was going to be a big superstar. What I like the most about him amongst his sharp catching and the way he scores runs is his desire to want to do whatever is required off him for the team. That sends a wonderful message to his team.

Jonty’s grief

I understand why Jonty [Rhodes] is disappointed that AB has been thrust into the wicketkeeper’s role. In the field [he] is magic to watch. But I think in T20 cricket, filling up a position and giving your team an option to play an extra bowler or batsman is far more important than him being on the field. Jonty may disagree being a fielding coach and an exceptional fielder himself, but AB keeping gives RCB more flexibility in the line-up.

The eye-catching young ‘uns

Mathew Wade from Australia is not here this year, but he has shown really good signs. He scored a hundred in Test cricket in Brad Haddin’s absence. The more he is exposed to the higher level, the more he’ll improve. He is a hard working character.

Another guy I am really impressed with is Nitin Saini in KXIP. He got an opportunity after I got injured. You wouldn’t say he is a flamboyant cricketer who everyone is going to notice, but he has got a terrific work ethic. He is going to blossom with time as more opportunities come his way.
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