Adam Gilchrist revolutionised the role of a wicketkeeper. Before his Test debut in 1999, wicketkeepers were expected to bat competently at seven or eight, averaging between 28 and 35, but it was their glove work that mattered most. All that changed when Gilchrist, who will retire from Test cricket at the end of today's play in Adelaide, began dispatching bowlers into the top tiers of stands at Test and one-day venues.
Within an hour of him taking guard an indifferent Australian start would be transformed into a position of dominance and a total of 350-plus would once again be a realistic proposition.
It was not just the volume of runs that Gilchrist scored batting at No 7 that made him such a great player; it was the manner in which he accumulated them. When a fielding side takes five early wickets, the momentum is with them. The game has gone according to plan and it is time to pounce for the kill. Against an Australian side containing Gilchrist this was never the case. It did not matter what position Australia were in, he batted in the same instinctive, whirlwind way. Within 10 minutes smiles were replaced by frowns and the field had been spread.
It is hard to believe there has been a sweeter striker of a cricket ball. Gilchrist is the only man to have hit 100 sixes in Test cricket. He has so far clobbered 155 in one-day and Twenty20 cricket too, and there are bound to be a few more before he waves goodbye for the final time at the end of next month's Commonwealth Bank one-day series. Those of us present in Perth 13 months ago will never forget the way he took England's bowlers apart to score the second-fastest Test hundred off 57 balls.
It was not only in Test cricket that he thrived. As an opener in the one-day game he was even more lethal, scoring almost 10,000 runs at a rate of just under a run a ball.
Gilchrist was a fine glove-man and retires from Test cricket holding the world record for the most wicketkeeping dismissals. There is a certain irony about the timing of his announcement this week, in that it coincides with a period when the behaviour of the Australian team is being analysed closely.
Gilchrist was an absolute gentleman both on and off the field. He was one of the few walkers in the game and conducted himself impeccably. At press conferences he was intelligent and articulate, giving honest, thought out answers to questions, no matter how loaded they were.
Australia will find him almost impossible to replace and Brad Haddin faces a huge task. Opponents will be delighted to see a Gilchristless Australian side and the world champions, in the wake of the retirements of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Justin Langer and Damien Martyn, are drifting back to the pack.
Whether the wicket-keeping fraternity appreciates what Gilchrist has done is a moot point. Far more is now expected from the breed. For keepers Gilchrist will always be the benchmark, with every side wanting one. To date, however, there has only been one – Adam Craig Gilchrist.