A few days ago, Steve Waugh ruffled a few feathers by stating that Adam Gilchrist was the greatest match-changer in the great sides he captained – sides populated by some of the very best to occupy their various roles: Hayden, Ponting, Warne, McGrath and S. Waugh himself.
Legacy is always a touchy subject. To summarily summarise anyone’s career with the benefit of hindsight is an easy thing to do, and it’s been known to start pub blues and divide families at barbecues.
There is no way to quantify a sportsperson’s impact, despite the relentless efforts of the world’s left-brainers. Comparisons are generally odious. Even those who never approached greatness have had their matchless days, and the attentive sports fan loves recalling those moments of wizardry or courage or graciousness or dominance.
When Steve Waugh talks of legacy, we should listen, because he’s an astute judge. But of course one might argue his judgement is clouded by personal politics. He and Warne haven’t gotten on since that infamous Caribbean incident when Waugh agonised over dropping Warne. It was a tough decision, and it has drawn more praise than opprobrium. The latter has mainly come from the recipient of that decision himself, who never minded using public forums for those purposes, even while he was still sharing a dressing room with the teammates he was slating.
We’d be more inclined to listen to Waugh’s judgement of history. For a start he hasn’t said that much, comparatively, and while he might have agendas, as most of us do, they seem, overall, to lack the element of self-justification and self-glorification.
Gilchrist deserves the highest praise. He was an excellent sportsman, as well as an unrivalled exponent of two difficult arts. No matter who comes along in the future, Gilchrist will be remembered as a cricketer who dramatically changed certain aspects of the game forever. As we wrote in the latest Inside Cricket: “Upon Wisden, we have conferred the right to confer. Their honours are The Academy, The Nobel, the Ballon d’Or, the Pulitzer or Grammy of cricket, and they inserted Warne in the 20th Century’s top-five cricketers for his services to spin bowling.
A hundred years after the 20th Century’s best were nominated, Adam Gilchrist, a man who played in the same team as Warne, will have be in their top five of the 21st. Gilchrist was as good as a wicketkeeper was ever going to get if he was also going to be a revolutionary batsman. In him, the two arts found finality. The arguments of ‘keeping’s cognoscenti don’t matter, because none of them have been up there themselves, and no conjurer of the castle they throw forward – Tallon, Oldfield, Ames, Knott, Healy - has been, either. He broke records in both disciplines. Gilchrist was the pioneer.”
So…fair call, Tugga.